Tuesday, October 28, 2008

e-vo for week of October 29

Dearest e-votees-

This coming weekend is All Saints Sunday. It is a time when we reflect upon the great cloud of witnesses (present and past, living and dead) that form the body of Christ.

May your time be blessed this weekend as you gather with a great cloud of witnesses to give thanks and praise for an even greater cloud that have faithfully testified to the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ.



See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.<br>

John 3:1-3, NRSV

There is no greater love than one who lays down one’s life for another. That is what Jesus tells us in John 15:13. Jesus then calls his followers his friends.

In this text we are reminded that God’s love has given us the gift of adoption. We are not only friends with God. We are not only friends that Jesus was willing to lay down his life on our behalf. We are brought into the very family of God. We are God’s children. We are sisters and brothers of Jesus.

We don’t begin to understand what all that will mean as God’s promises continue to unfold and come to pass in our lives. It has not been entirely revealed how things will look and how we will be in the final times—contrary to some books and some movies that claim to have it all figured out. What we can understand is that we are called to hope and trust and believe in God who engenders our hope, who is trustworthy and who is believable.

As we dwell in that hope we are made pure and drawn more into God’s likeness.

This Sunday we commemorate those who have died and been sealed in that hope. This Sunday we give thanks for those who have shown and taught us about this hope. This Sunday, and hopefully every Sunday, we are reminded that this hope is for us too.

We may not entirely get it but that’s okay—God has gotten us entirely. We are saved and we are loved and we will never be abandoned. Thanks be to God.

God, thank you for folding us into the great cloud of witnesses. Help us celebrate well all those who have surrounded us and preceded us in the faith. Teach us to lean hard into the hope we have in you and to be made more pure in the process. Amen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

e-vo for week of October 22

Dearest e-votees-

Sometimes we don’t want to hear the diagnosis. We don’t want to hear that we are sick or we are needy or we are broken.

But without the diagnosis it is hard to embrace the cure.

The people in today’s text may well betray our hearts and minds too. We don’t want to admit that we are in need of freedom. But as we embrace that diagnosis and abide in the healing presence of Jesus’ word we are made well.



Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

John 8:31-36, NRSV

In the “Brief Order for Confession and Forgiveness” (Lutheran Book of Worship [aka
LBW] pages 56, 77 and 98) we together say “we confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.”

I remember a woman who came to our church who could not bring herself to say these words. Her point was that Jesus forgave us from our sins so we are no longer in bondage. In the grand theological scale I want to agree with her. In the particular incarnational case of yours truly I know all too well that sin still has its tendrils wrapped around my life. When I look in the mirror I see one who has been set free yet still struggles against the chains. How about you?

Two songs of Stephen Curtis Chapman’s come to mind:

Free (which can be found on
Signs of Life)

Remember Your Chains (which can be found on
Heaven in the Real World)

I commend both of these songs to you.

May your worship be blessed this Reformation Sunday as you remember you are simul justus et peccator (both saint and sinner). You are both set free and still bound up. You are a work in progress and God will not stop until it is all done.

God shape us into the people you want us to be. Thank you for setting us free on the cross. Thank you for continuing to set us free daily as we stumble our way after you. Thank you for salvation by grace, not by works, so we don’t get to boast (Ephesians 2:8-9) but receive it gratefully. Amen.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

e-vo for week of October 15

Dearest e-votees-

This week’s gospel text has the leaders trying to trip up Jesus in his words. In the exchange Jesus reminds them that God’s claims on our lives trump the world’s claims on us.

May we all know that God loves us, claims us and calls us into glorious and gracious expectations well beyond those of the world.



Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

Matthew 22:15-22, NRSV

I got that e-mail again that tells me that I should boycott any money that is produced that doesn’t bear the phrase “In God We Trust”. I can’t remember how many times I have seen that one. Somehow it has been decided that we should shun money that doesn’t directly lay claim to our relationship with God. That seems perhaps well-intentioned but misguided.

Rather than worry about the exterior labels on things we use we should worry about our own interior attitudes. When we look at things it should be as if we are looking through contact lenses that have “This is God’s, too.” etched in the surface. That way no matter where we looked we would be reminded that everything we have—every possession, every moment, every breath, every hope, every joy and everything else all come from the hands of our gracious God. God cares how we use them all.

There is no problem with us living in the world and giving the emperor what is due. But as we pay taxes and cast votes and serve in our community and interact with our neighbors we should be looking through those lenses that remind us that God trumps all of these worldly interactions. That God wants to shape these worldly interactions. That God wants to shape us through these worldly interactions.

God, help us give everyone their due today. Help us love others as we would want to be loved ourselves. Help us to love you with all our hearts and all our souls and all our minds and all of our strength. Help us give you your due this day. Amen.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

e-vo for week of October 8

Dearest e-votees-

For this week’s focus we will use a portion of the assigned reading from Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. Your on your own if you want to read the other portion dealing with Euodia and Syntyche.

If you are looking for a good song that derives straight from this text—and I know you are—I would commend to you the song Philippians 4 by the Spirit Garage Band on their CD Free Parking.

Have a blessed week.



Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:4-9

What a glorious contrast this passage makes to the furious and frenetic and foul tones that seem to permeate the campaigns for elected office in this world of ours.

Paul offers an opportunity to rejoice; the world tells us to bemoan.

Paul offers an opportunity to be gentle; the world tells us to savagely attack.

Paul offers an opportunity to forego anxiety; the world cranks up the stress and the fear.

Paul offers us a chance to be thankful; the world stokes our resentment.

Paul offers us the very peace of God; the world draws us into its wars and conflicts.

Paul offers that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable; the world counters with that which is false, base, wrong, tainted, unlovely and shameful.

This day, let us keep our eyes focused with Paul on the heavenly call in Christ Jesus.

God, help us walk in the world bearing the hope and promise that we encounter in Paul. Help us choose well, drink deeply and share your blessings with all. In the name of Jesus who is our Prince of Peace. Amen.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

e-vo for week of October 1

Dearest e-votees-

This Sunday we have three texts about vineyards in addition to the portion of Philippians as we work our way through the continuous reading (lectio continua) of the epistles.

We will use our text from Isaiah to help focus our devotional time this week.



The Song of the Unfruitful Vineyard

Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?

And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!

Isaiah 5:1-7, NRSV

I was taken by the caption put on this portion scripture in the NET (New English Translation) which was "A Love Song Gone Sour". You gotta love the bad fruit pun.

This text is a picture of a loving vineyard keeper doing all that is possible to raise healthy vines that bear good fruit. It is a picture of a loving parent doing all that is possible to raise healthy children who develop into grounded and productive adults. It is the picture of any caretaker doing all that is possible to lead his or her charge to the best possible outcome.

No effort has been spared as rocks have been cleared, rains have been provided, a watchtower has been erected. With all the best efforts the best outcome is anticipated. But then reality kicks in.

Sometimes no effort is sufficient for the desired outcome. Vines have a way of growing their own ways. Children push away and sometimes plunge into dark places. Those needing care might choose the familiarity of addiction or unhealthy patterns or sub-par recovery over the challenges and struggles of getting to a better place. Those trying to help may well wring their hands and hang their hearts and cry out "What more was there for me to do that I have not done?"

Sometimes all that can happen is to let the circumstances run their courses. Hedges and protections and interventions may need to be lifted regardless of the consequence. Those we love might endure all sorts on attacks as a result of their own choices.

But even in the midst of all that God never forsakes us. In our gospel text the vineyard owner sends even his son to the unworthy tenants. The son, of course, is a picture of Jesus. We often are like the unworthy tenants who take what is not ours and traumatize others who are merely doing what God has called them to do. We are as often the ones needing the intervention as we are the one trying to bring about the intervention.

Thanks be to God that God's interventions never end. God's mercies are new every morning. Even if we dare to kill God's own son there is resurrection hope and a new start.

Dear God, we have been unfruitful vineyards. We have wandered our own ways and endured some of the consequences. Draw us deeply into your new mercies this day. Give us courage and patience as we reach out to others who have also strayed. Help us know the power of the resurrection hope that is ours in Christ Jesus. Amen.