Monday, March 24, 2008

e-vo for week of March 26

Dearest e-votees-

I am out of the office for a few days and I wanted to send this before I left town.

Have a blessed Easter season celebration. "Christ is risen!"



Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you." As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight. Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips. The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit. You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 16, NRSV

This is the appointed psalm for this coming Sunday. It is also the source material for Peter's quote in Acts 2:25b-28 when he is talking about Jesus.

The people had put many hopes on King David and his lineage. Peter makes reference to the fact that his tomb is well known to the audience. David wasn't able to do much for the people anymore. But someone in David's line would. Someone David wrote about himself in Psalm 16. Someone who did not end up stuck in Sheol or in the Pit.

David's tomb is full--Jesus' tomb is empty.

David lived a life of faith that was stained with sin--Jesus lived a faithful life and stained a wooden cross with his innocent blood for our sin.

David wrote beautiful words about the Messiah--Jesus is the Word, the Messiah, through whom all things came to be.

David offered hope--Jesus is our hope.

God, we thank you for the life and witness of David. We praise you for the life and death and restored life of Jesus. Help us witness to that hope. Amen.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

e-vo for week of March 19

Dearest e-votees-

I hope and trust and pray that your Holy Week has been blessed. May God be with you and us all as we gather around the Last Supper, the basin and the towel, the garden and the trial, the cross and the empty tomb.

There are lots of permutations for the lessons for this Sunday in the lectionary. For this e-vo we’ll hone in on the option from Colossians.



So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4, NRSV

The first thing to note is the construction "have been raised with Christ." The verb is in a construction called aorist which is an event that has been brought definitively to completion in the past. The verb is also passive meaning that it is something done to us rather than our own accomplishment. In other words it is a done deal and we didn’t do it.

We were connected with Jesus’ death and resurrection most particularly in our baptisms. God is the one at work in our baptisms not us. In other words it is a done deal and we didn’t do it.

The construction "So if you have been raised with Christ" isn’t calling into question our having been raised with Christ. It has the sense of "If you have been raised with Christ-- which you have--..." It is more of the flavor "Since you have been raised with Christ..." (see NIV as an example).

All this is to say that God has definitively connected us to Jesus’ death and resurrection in our baptisms. This should continue to be active and at work in our lives as the rest of the Colossians text suggests. Because God has acted definitively in our lives in baptism we are freed to respond through the leading of the Holy Spirit.

When faced with choosing between things above and things of this earth (not everything falls into such clean binary categories) we are encouraged to choose those things of above. When we are unsure the Holy Spirit can help us discern. When we choose poorly the Holy Spirit can redirect our paths.

Our life is hidden (from others and even from us as times) with Christ in God. There is a mysterious piece to this new life with Christ in God. It hasn’t all been revealed yet.

When Jesus comes (now in part and once and for all at the end of time) our glory will be revealed too. (future, passive--it will happen and we won’t be the prime actors).

God, help us trust that you have raised us with Christ and that you have hidden our lives in you through Jesus. Give us patience and faith to trust your promises especially when they are hard to see. Reveal yourself to us and to the world and bring your glory. Amen.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

e-vo for week of March 12

Dearest e-votees-

We are bearing down on Holy Week. My hope and prayer is that we would find many opportunities to linger around worship during the days ahead. It is worth walking through the days and abiding in the week as it unfolds.

Rather than try to digest the entire week (the Passion narrative from Matthew) or considering the Christ hymn in Philippians 2:5-11 we will take a look at the Isaiah text that is appointed for Sunday.

Blessings on your day.



The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens—wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?

Isaiah 50:4-9a, NRSV

This text sets the stage well for Jesus’ final week of his mortal existence.

Jesus has indeed the tongue of a teacher. He inspires the crowd with his parables and his confounding of those trying to entrap him. He has spoken to Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman in the past few weeks. And he has spoken to us as well as we have been listening in.

He wakens not only our ears but the dead as well. As Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb Jesus calls to the dead places in us. Life comes where stench and despair were found before. We are brought into the resurrection hope as Jesus calls for us to come forth.

In spite of his teaching and his healing ministry—perhaps even because of them—humanity turns on Jesus. In spite of Jesus’ teaching and healing ministry in our own lives—perhaps even because of them—we turn on Jesus. We insult him and spit on him and pull on his beard. We are the ones nailing Jesus to the cross (Mel Gibson did his best work in The Passion by acting as the one nailing Jesus to the cross). We contend with God. We are God’s adversaries.

In spite of our rebellion—perhaps even because of it—Jesus turns towards humanity with a compassionate and forgiving heart. Jesus prays for us and for all “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” Jesus offers forgiveness to the thief on the cross (traditionally named Dismas) and to us.

We can say with Isaiah: “It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?” Thanks be to God.

Jesus we praise you for this week you underwent on our behalf. Bless our times of worship as we remember how you didn’t forget us. Give us hearts and thoughts and actions that are pleasing to you. Amen.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

e-vo for week of March 5

Dearest e-votees-

This week the appointed gospel is the familiar text of Jesus bringing Lazarus back from the dead—a powerful account that speaks to people deeply particularly at funerals and other times of profound mourning. That account will no doubt be the focus of many a sermon this Sunday.

We will explore the appointed text from Romans as the focus of our devotions this week. It has much to say to us as well.



To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Romans 8:6-11, NRSV

We are made in the image of God. We are also creatures made of flesh. Being made of flesh is not a problem. Jesus was God and also a fully fleshed out human being. Jesus was able to faithfully live out his days fully submitting to God’s laws. Jesus was flesh and spirit and lived in a way that pleased God.

Paul, in this text, raises the issue of what is the focus of our mind. If the mind is set upon tending to the flesh then it is death. If the mind is set on the spirit of God there is life and peace. Where we put our mind matters.

One way to think of God is the one to which we give our utmost attention or the final say. If our decisions are ultimately based on the needs and desires of our flesh then our own fleshly instincts have usurped God’s rightful place and become a surrogate god. If our decisions are ultimately based on the promptings and teachings of the Holy Spirit then God remains on the throne.

God does not desire suffering for suffering’s sake. God doesn’t disregard our needs and our desires as fleshly beings. God made the beings out of flesh and regarded them as good in the book of Genesis. But the desires and the needs of the Holy Spirit must trump the desires and needs of the flesh when in tension. There are times when we must forgo the fleshly impulses for the Holy Spirit’s sake.

The Holy Spirit at work in us gives life that the gratifications of the flesh never can. The world dangles sensory fulfillment of the flesh. God calls us to a deeper fulfillment by the Holy Spirit. The world beckons us toward the “good life” but really calls us towards death like the mythological sirens. The Holy Spirit stirs us towards “the Way, the Truth and the Life” which sometimes looks like a cross—an instrument of death. Through that cross, however, the truest life there is can be found.

Jesus, help us to set our minds on your Holy Spirit. We thank you for that Spirit poured into our lives in the baptismal font. Help our flesh give way to the things that will ultimately bring about your kingdom in us and in this world. Amen.