Wednesday, July 30, 2008

e-vo for week of August 6

Dearest e-votees-

This e-vo is coming out a bit early since I will be out of town with our high school students on a mission trip to Benton Harbor, MI. Please keep our travels and the work that God does in us and through us in your prayers.



Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.

Psalm 85:8-13, NRSV

The images in our appointed psalm text of very different realms making connection are stunning.

Love and faithfulness will meet.

Righteousness and peace will kiss.

Faithfulness will spring up and righteousness will look down.

There is a balance that is to be had in the Christian faith. Reconciliation and love and faithfulness and peace and other such things are one part. Jesus came to work these things through his life and his teachings. People are drawn in, called to be faithful and restored to a peaceful relationship. Images of restored lepers, tax collectors at the dinner table, forgiven adulteresses and forgiven repentant thieves show us this side.

There is also a call to righteousness and justice and sacrifice and discipleship which composes the other part. Jesus came to call followers. John called out for repentance. People are drawn out, called to choose the narrow way and be ready to lay it all down. Images of severed heads at king’s parties and empty nets left behind and worship in catacombs and conscientious objectors show us this side. In God these two sides come into intimate contact. Through Jesus we see these things wed together. In the church we are called to allow God to work this union as well.

God isn’t done creating these holy and unusual hybrids.

God shape us into loving, righteous, welcoming, sacrificing, peaceful and confronting followers all to your glory. Amen.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

e-vo for week of July 30

Dearest e-votees-

The appointed gospel text for this Sunday is Matthew’s account of the feeding of the 5,000 +. You will undoubtedly hear a thing or two about this text from the pulpit in church this week. (BIBLE TRIVIA: This is the only miracle performed by Jesus that is recorded in all 4 gospels)

Our appointed Psalm 145 text overlaps the appointed reading for four weeks ago (focus for e-vo for week of July 2nd). You heard something on that text not so long ago.

For our time together this week we will hone in on the other two appointed readings.



I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Romans 9:1-5, NRSV

Paul is writing deeply from the heart longing for his people, the Israelites, to come to know Christ. Paul reminds the readers of the many ways that God has particularly been manifested to the descendants of Abraham—glorious appearances, covenants, the law through Moses, the worship through Aaron and his family, the promises. And further still, Jesus traces his lineage through all of these practices and these people. God comes to us in a particular way according to God’s choosing. We have the freedom to reject or accept Jesus come to earth to work what we could not but we don’t have the power to make it untrue. It is revealed to us—as to Paul—through the Holy Spirit.

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.

See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.

Isaiah 55:1-5, NRSV

These powerful words from Isaiah carried along by the Holy Spirit speak of abundance. There is talk of wine and bread and milk. Images of communion and blessing abound. Visions of baskets full of leftover fish and bread fit well with this text. Rich food and deep words bring life to all those who thirst. Jesus certainly appropriates these images into his ministry as he calls to all who thirsty (see John 7:37) on the last day of the feast.

The promises that are offered to Israel are extended to other nations not even known at that time (read, among others, the United States of America). We are folded into these rich promises of abundant life. We have the freedom to accept or reject this glorious and gracious call to abundant life but we cannot undermine the truth of the invitation. It is revealed to us by that same Holy Spirit that Jesus promises to us (see John 7:39) and to all who drink of him.

God, help us to know and live into your promises. Blow through us by the power of your Holy Spirit. Reach out to others through us with your gracious and glorious promises. Help us make room at the table for all who would come. Amen.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

e-vo for week of July 23

Dearest e-votees-

Looking through the appointed scriptures for this Sunday (the 11th Sunday after Pentecost) is like walking through a ripe orchard. There is abundant, tasty and life giving fruit hanging low all around. It seems like no matter what you pick you will end up with something good and life-sustaining.

I would encourage you to spend time with the verses of this abundantly rich orchard as you are able:

1 Kings 3:5-12
Solomon asking for wisdom over riches, honor, long life or vengeance

Psalm 119:129-136
Earnest prayer of thanksgiving for the decrees and laws of the Lord

Romans 8:26-29
Powerful words by Paul carried along by the Holy Spirit about our God who never leaves us as we weather all that this life brings upon us—more on that below

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
An orchard of ripe parables including the mustard seed, the yeast in the batch of dough, the exquisite pearl and the dragnet

May your perusing and picking and feasting on these scriptural delicacies bless you and those who receive them through you as well.



For today we will look at two portions of the appointed Romans text:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:26-28, NRSV

The gospel isn’t about us being wise or successful or composed or eloquent. The gospel is about God coming into our weakness. Jesus stepped into our sin-stained world and longs to enter into our sin-stained hearts every day. The Spirit comes into our fumbling and feeble prayers. The things that happen to us and through us are also sin-stained. But God can work all things together for good particularly as we grow in our love for God and in embracing the callings God puts on our lives. This isn’t some trite platitude from some sweat shop bumper sticker company far away. This is a deep and abiding promise from our God who bears things like the cross and our persistent sin and our scorn out of deep and abiding love for us. We are reminded that God has not forsaken us.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-39, NRSV

If God was going to say one thing to you today what would you want it to be? Would it be an answer to a lingering question? Would it be a promise for justice or vengeance? Would it be a word of forgiveness or restoration? What would you want to hear? I believe that if God were limited to one statement (which, of course, is purely contrived) God would say “I love you.” God would say your name and God would warm your heart. God said it to Adam and Eve when he fashioned garments for them even after they had to leave the garden. God said it to Noah with the rainbow in the midst of the judgment. God said it to the woman taken in adultery. God said it to Peter and the others over breakfast at the beach. God says to you this day “I love you.” And the Holy Spirit through Paul reminds us that nothing can drive a lasting wedge between us and the love of our God.

Loving and faithful God, help us to abide in your loving and persistent presence this day. Help us walk in the world in a way that pleases you and blesses others. Amen.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

e-vo for week of July 16

Dearest e-votees-

The appointed section of Psalm 86 for this Sunday speaks on so many levels—confession, praise, proclamation and prayers. May our words and our prayers this day be as heartfelt and multi-faceted as this snippet from King David’s prayer journal—the Psalms.



Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. O God, the insolent rise up against me; a band of ruffians seeks my life, and they do not set you before them. But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant; save the child of your serving girl. Show me a sign of your favor, so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame, because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Psalm 86:11-17, NRSV


David asks the Lord to grant him an undivided heart. This prayer would only make sense if David were aware of his divided loyalties. Perhaps he is still struggling with how he made such a tragic mess of several lives by having relations with Bathsheba while her husband was off serving in David’s military. Not only did he kill of a faithful soldier but the child conceived in sin bore a heavy sentence as well. David didn’t even seem to realize his need to confess until Nathan hit him square between the eyes with “You are the man!” (see 2 Samuel 12:7 and surrounding verses). Maybe David struggles with being king over and against the Lord being King. Maybe David is living in the shadows of nuances and half-disclosures which is why he prays about walking in the truth. How about us? If we were to offer a prayer of confession right now what would spill off our lips? If you feel so moved to pray and confess go ahead. This e-vo will still be here after a short confessional break.

There is reason that worship and our days should be steeped with with confession—it is because we are kinfolk with David.


David promises to glorify the Lord’s name forever and to give thanks with his whole heart. The one who has been forgiven much loves much and the one who has been forgiven little loves little (see Luke 7:36-50). Whether it is David dancing before the returning ark of the Lord (despite the disdain of his own family as seen in 2 Samuel 6:16) or the extravagant adoration of a sinful woman who is made clean there is a theme of deep response to God’s holy presence and provision. Can we find time in our busy days to dance like nobody’s watching (thank you Satchel Paige or whoever first crafted that quote)? Better yet can we craft time in our days to dance when we know full well who is watching? Can we find ways to pour out ourselves in extravagant ways at the feet of our Lord? If you feel so moved go ahead and dance and adore right now. This e-vo will still be here after a short break for praise and adoration.

There is a reason that worship and our days should be bathed in praise—we are kinfolk with David and the sinful woman at Simon’s house.


David lifts up the qualities of God in words about God’s steadfast love and God’s deliverance. This psalm is still speaking to us so many thousands of years later. The psalm may well have been set to music and sung. Part of how God cracks through our encrusted hearts is through words of proclamation sung and spoken. Often it is not even in words as God speaks through the loving and restorative actions of people who have no reason in human wisdom to be reaching out to us. Can we find ways to receive love and deliverance in the many ways it will be offered to us this day? Can we be bearers of that love and deliverance in as many ways as the Holy Spirit stirs us this day? Can we live out that wonderful quote from St. Francis “Preach the Gospel. Use words if necessary”? If you have an opportunity to proclaim God’s steadfast love and God’s deliverance right now go ahead and seize it. This e-vo will still be here after a short break for God to do holy and life-giving work through earthen vessels.

There is a reason that proclamation through music and word should abound in our worship and in our days—we are kinfolk with David and with the stones that shout out in Luke 19:40.


David offers prayers of thanksgiving and prayers for deliverance. David prays for grace and mercy for himself and for vengeance so that those who hate him are put to shame. Psalms resonate so well with us because they are holy and earthy all at the same time. The Psalms call us up to new heights and hunker down with us in the depths. The Psalms do what Jesus did in his earthly ministry—they meet us where we are and call us up out of the pit to new and redeemed life. God’s mercy and grace, slow anger, steadfast love and other qualities of restoration beckon us to new life. Because we are not yet done with the pain and suffering—both self-inflicted and from without—we can find places of solace and hope in the prayers of someone like David. If you have something you need to lay in the hands of our loving and merciful God right now go ahead and give it over. This e-vo will be here after a short break to engage God in the holy and healthy work of supplication.

There is a reason that prayer and supplication should be threaded throughout our worship and our days—we are kinfolk with David and Jesus and the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8.

God, stir us to confess and praise and proclaim and pray this day. Help us not relegate these life-giving moments and activities to our weekly worship. Infuse our day with the kinds of moments that our kinsman David had. Work through us to your glory. Amen.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

e-vo for week of July 9

Dearest e-votees-

Our appointed Old Testament text for this coming Sunday (the 9th Sunday after Pentecost) is full of promise and hope. May your life be blessed today by the deep and abiding promises and hope that comes from the steadfast and generous hand of our God.



For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

Isaiah 55:10-13, NRSV

I remember well meeting a pastor one time who confided in me that after serving in the church for many years he still couldn’t manage to eat breakfast on the mornings he was preaching. His nerves and his digestion couldn’t seem to get along on such mornings.

While I don’t struggle with being able to eat on days I preach I do know the trembling of holy fear as I prepare to speak to God’s people on any given Sunday. What if I spend too much time afflicting the comfortable—too much law? What if I spend too much time comforting the afflicted—too much gospel? (as if that could ever really happen) What if I speak something that doesn’t pass theological muster? What if I try to engage people in a way that isn’t engaging? What if I empty myself from the pulpit and people leave even emptier than when I started? I cringe at the thought that I am wasting people’s time and people’s lives and squandering holy moments.

The problem with all the “What if…?”s is that they are focused too much on the messenger and not the message. They are too tightly wound around my own abilities or shortcomings and not nearly tightly enough around the deep promises found in the Isaiah verse above. Scripture—words that come out of God’s mouth—does not return empty. It accomplishes God’s purpose in God’s timing through God’s ways. God’s word will succeed.

If God can speak through inanimate things like water and bread and wine then God can speak through us too—particularly if we are willing to be like John the Baptist and decrease that God might increase in us. If God can speak through the donkey of Balaam (see Numbers 22:21-33) and bring deliverance then God can surely speak through people like us. If God can bring hope and restoration to people like the ones Jesus ate with and lived with then God can bring hope and restoration to and through us.

The point of all of this is that it is God’s work—not ours. God’s work doesn’t come up short. God’s promises are rock solid. The joy and the peace are for many including us. God’s provision is for many including us. Hope and salvation are for many including us. We can join the ovation of the trees of the field for our good and faithful God.

God, speak to us today by whatever means necessary. Speak through us today to a world that—like us—doesn’t always recognize your message as well as we should. Send your word into and through our lives to water and to bring forth and help sprout. Give us hearts to praise you with the trees of the fields. Amen.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

e-vo for week of July 2

Dearest e-votees-

We will use our appointed Psalm to help shape our devotions this week. Have a blessed celebration of the 4th of July. May your independence and your freedom, which came at great cost, be used in ways to bless others.



Here is our assigned Psalm for this coming Sunday:

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made. All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful shall bless you. They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power, to make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The Lord is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds. The Lord upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.

Psalm 145:8-14, NRSV

This is a Psalm of David. Consider the many ways that David exalts the Lord and how it brings into sharp relief how we are not always like the Lord.

The Lord is gracious. How full of grace are we? What are the first thoughts and impressions we have of ones who do things differently than us? Do we gift them with the best construction on their actions? Or do we hold them to a law to which we ourselves are unable to fulfill?

The Lord is merciful. How full of mercy are we? When we catch someone dead to rights do we unleash our furor? Do we err on leniency and mercy or firm and fair punishments (at least in our own estimations).

The Lord is slow to anger. How patient are we? When someone irritates us (knowingly or inadvertently) do we have a fuse of long-suffering or are we just on the brink of exploding? How many times are we willing to forgive if we are approached by one seeking forgiveness and restoration?

The Lord is abounding in steadfast love. Do we abound in love? Is it a steadfast love or a fickle love? Is our love a deep and abiding love that comes as a gift from God or is it a flighty, self-serving, quickly redirected love? Do those we love feel secure and assured?

The Lord is faithful in all his words. Are we faithful? Are we faithful in our words? Are we faithful in all our words? Do we mean what we say? Do we say what we mean? Do promises from our lips truthfully come to pass or flutter away to hopefully be forgotten?

The Lord is gracious in all his deeds. Are we gracious? Are we gracious in our deeds—not just our thoughts and attitudes? Are we gracious in all our deeds? Do our actions bear into the world the grace which we have ourselves received from Jesus?

The Lord upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down. Do we help steady those who are falling? Or do we push the weak and the sickly out of the herd so some predator might take them instead of us? Do we help raise up those who are bowed down or heap even more weight on them so that they maybe won’t ever rise again? How do we treat those who are struggling on the fringes?

I don’t know about you but these questions call me up short revealing the many ways I have failed to grow up into my baptism. The good news is all the characteristics that David lifts up about his Lord are true of our Lord, too. We share this same loving, long-suffering, gracious and faithful God.

May we grow up more into our baptisms this week. May we be mindful that the calling on us is to be more like our Lord. When we fail—and we will—we can lean deeply into the promises about God’s forgiving and abiding character.

Let’s close this devotion with a prayer that is commonly used as a table grace. It comes from the next two verses immediately after our assigned text.

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing. Amen.