Wednesday, September 24, 2008

e-vo for week of September 24

Dearest e-votees-

Our texts appointed texts for this week have a strong theme of repentance and restoration.

Old Testament Lesson:
Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32 speaks of death as a consequence of sin and of God taking no pleasure in death but wanting rather transgressors to turn and live.

Psalm 25:1-9 (see below)

New Testament/Epistle Lesson:
Phlippians 2:1-13 speaks of taking our eyes off of ourselves and looking out for the welfare of others as was first and best shown in the work of Jesus on the cross. 2:5-11 is also known as the “Christ hymn” and is thought to have maybe existed outside of Paul and was folded into this letter.

Gospel Lesson:
Matthew 21:23-32 Jesus sidesteps a trap laid by the chief priests and elders questioning his authority. He goes on to talk about the kingdom as like a repentant son and one unwilling to change his ways. It brings to mind the Pharisee and the Publican in Luke 18:9-14.

May God bless these words to us and draw us to places of repentance and restoration.



Prayer for Guidance and for Deliverance
Of David.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.

Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.

Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.

Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.

Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!

Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

Psalm 25:1-9, NRSV

The prayer here is an earnest one from David seeking truth and salvation and mercy. David is full aware (as is Bathsheba and Uriah and short-lived baby) of his human frailty and his failings. Nathan reminded David and reminds us of how we stray. Psalm 51 was a response to Nathan’s rebuke.

Psalm 25 seeks after a God who transcends our failings. That is the hope of the son in Jesus’ parable who does as his father requests even after initially denying the request. That is the hope of those flocking out to see John the Baptist in the wilderness looking for cleansing and rebirth.

That God who transcends our failings is shown in words through the text in Ezekiel. There are consequences for the things we do and the things we opt not to do. Beyond that, however, is a God willing and able to grant life and newness to transgressors.

The God who transcends our failings is shown in deed on the cross as Jesus puts aside deity and enters into our world with compassion. Jesus suffers with (literal meaning of compassion) us and makes right what we could not.

Jesus took on the shame that David was so want to avoid in the psalm. Jesus opened up a way to new life and new hope and new chances. As we grow in taking that truth into our souls we grow into new life and new hope and new chances. As we truly live that restored life we find ways to offer new life and new hope and new chances to those that have transgressed against us.

We learn to pray with Jesus from the cross “Father, forgive them” and we learn to pray with Jesus on the Mount of Beatitudes “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”—and we find freedom in the releasing of others.

God, we need you to transcend our failings this very day. Shape us into people who know you and love you. Thank you that your faithfulness trumps our faithlessness. Amen.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

e-vo for week of September 17

Dearest e-votees-

I thought we might use the appointed psalm verses of this week to shape our time together.

The Old Testament lesson appointed for this week is Jonah pouting east of Nineveh because God’s judgment has relented (the Hebrew said that God repented). The gospel lesson is vineyard workers upset because all got paid a day’s wage even though some started early and some started quite late.

All of these verses call us to consider how we respond to God’s enormous and undeserved saving grace towards us and towards others. May you remember and experience and reflect that grace today.



Psalm 145:1-8, NRSV

1 I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.

If God is indeed God and sovereign in our lives than we are not. Blessing God’s name and God’s purposes may well mean that our name and our purposes might be cursed. This was Jonah’s struggle and part of why he resisted the call and pouted when God was merciful. This is part of why the vineyard workers felt slighted. How well do we get off the throne and bless God’s holy name?

2 Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever.

Blessing God every day is quite the spiritual discipline. Often we bless God through how we bless others. With the eyes of faith we can see every day as an opportunity to meet God and see Jesus. Rather than partition our week to holy times and secular times we can allow every moment to be both holy and have its secular portions. Mother Teresa seemed to get this when she talked about seeing Jesus in the face of those dying in Calcutta.

3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.

Allowing ourselves to allow God to be mysterious and unsearchable. We humbly come to Christ from below rather than dissecting God with scalpel and microscope from above. We don’t need to work as hard as some well-intentioned Christian authors to explore and explain every nook and cranny of God. We can be putting praise before understanding. We can be entering into the relationship in addition to an academic understanding.

4 One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.

This is the work of confirmation and fulfilling the promises made at the baptismal font. This is really the thrust of what youth ministry should be all about.

5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.

Individual devotion time can be spent pondering God’s majesty and the wonder of God’s works. Time in the beauty of nature (particularly here in the Pacific Northwest) can be part of that discipline and joy. Time in Bible study and group interactions can serve that purpose as well.

6 The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed, and I will declare your greatness.

Giving testimony is part of the calling on all of us Christians. “Preach the gospel, use words if necessary” (St. Francis of Assisi) “They are necessary, tell them about Jesus” (Jim Burtness of Luther Seminary). Looking for opportunities to declare God’s greatness. This is a growth point for many mainline Christians.

7 They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

Rather than seeking fame and recognition for ourselves we can celebrate the abundant goodness of God. We can duck the spotlight that it might shine brightly on God’s gracious and righteous ways. We can join the choir singing praises rather than seek the diva/aria moment.

8 The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

This is the refrain of our lives: of Lent, of our dropped promises, of our remorseful turnings, of our hopeful new beginnings. This is how we know that when God’s mind changes (as it did in Jonah’s case) it is sure to be towards mercy from judgment. This is the good news with which we assure ourselves and others. Thanks be to God.

God, help us to abide with you this week. Speak to us and through us all to your glory. Shape us and continue to love us. Amen.