Wednesday, November 25, 2009

e-vo for week of November 25

Dearest e-votees-

I hope and pray that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration. As you gather around tables with loved one and are sorely aware of those you wish were there be blessed. May deep connections and joyful laughter fill your conversations. Be loved and be loving.



How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, NRSV

The appointed text for this Sunday (the first Sunday of the new church year and the first Sunday of Advent) is one that is most fitting for Thanksgiving as well. Paul is longing to be reunited face to face with the saints in Thessalonica. Their relationship has been sustaining.

As you receive or go and visit people (family, friends, siblings in Christ) who have given you joy and sustained you over the years be blessed. Thank God and savor the moments. Take your shoes off and linger on that holy ground. Allow God to shape and create holy reunions. Abound in love for God and for one another.

Allow God to stir your love for those who cross your path as you go about your celebration of these days set aside for Thanksgiving. If you go out shopping on Black Friday take with you an attitude of love and charity. Perhaps you could stop by the Salvation Army kettles or find your way to a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter or a Thanksgiving dinner for those dining on the “Island of Misfit Toys”. Let your heart grow a few sizes this year and set an extra setting of roast beast out just in case someone happens by the door.

Jesus says it pretty clearly in Matthew 25:40: whatever we do unto the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters we do unto Jesus.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving with friends, family, loved ones and Jesus.

God, how do we begin to thank you for all you have done for us? Even the things in our life that are not from you that we cling to and imperil our intimacy with you are things that you graciously endure and extract from our lives. Thank you. You work all things for good in our lives. Help us cherish your kindness and steep in your love and extend them both to the hurting world in which we sojourn. Amen.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

e-vo for week of November 18

Dearest e-votees-

As we draw near to the end of our church year (Christ the King Sunday is the last Sunday of our liturgical calendar), Thanksgiving and the end of the calendar year I thought we might engage a tone of reflection and thankfulness for the past year.

May you be blessed. May the frantic scurrying of holiday shopping and baking and black Friday fade in comparison to the joy of loved ones, deep and abiding promises and new starts.



But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labor among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-22, NRSV

I am a cinephile. (I am a lover of movies). I suppose I could confess that I am a sinphile too (one who loves to sin?) but that goes without saying and is, of course, why God stooped into the world to save us. One of the things I love to do in regard to my love of movies is savor the Oscars. There is something that is lovely and engaging to me as the best performances of the year are celebrated including newcomers and beloved favorites. I realize this whole event smacks of theology of glory and idolatry but what can I say—I love the spectacle. By far the most moving part of the night is when they flash “In Memoriam” on the screen and then linger over those who have departed from their earthly existence.

There is something good about lingering over the lives and achievements of those who have stirred passions, who have challenged the status quo, who have portrayed what we struggle to describe and who inspire hope and courage when our natural inclinations are to wallow in despair.

I would encourage you to reflect back over this past year—longer if you like—and think of those who have made a deep impact in your life. Who have put flesh and bones for you on the skeleton of the Thessalonians text above? Who has encouraged you when you were faint of heart? Who has been ceaselessly praying for you? Who has stirred and stoked the Spirit in your life? Who has shown you patience beyond your deserving? Who has admonished you when you have stooped into mediocrity?

In the middle of the Thessalonians text is the exhortation to “give thanks in all circumstances”. This does not say to give thanks for all circumstances. That is very different and perhaps ill-informed. But as followers of Jesus we know all things work towards the good (see Romans 8:28). I hope and pray that your year ends and your thanksgiving could be full of joyful “In Memoriam” moments as you think of those who have laid down their lives (literally or metaphorically) for you.

If you have the opportunity, give thanks directly to those who have blessed you so richly. And, of course, the source of all blessings and the model for how to truly live out our Thessalonians text is Jesus. Celebrate Christ the King Sunday and Thanksgiving well knowing that Jesus gave his life freely and has freed us all. That is the true “In Memoriam” moment. The cup and the loaf are the true banquet where we remember and where we actually engage Jesus’ body and blood. That beats the stuffing out of turkey and yams and stuffing any day. Savor the feast and make room for others who are hungry.

God, thank you. Amen.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

e-vo for week of November 11

Dearest e-votees-

Today is the day set aside to commemorate the service of veterans in our country. I thought it fitting to swing away from the assigned lessons for this Sunday and choose one particularly appropriate for the day.

Blessings to you as you enjoy your hard-earned freedoms this day.



This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

John 15:12-17, NRSV

There are two deep threads that run through these words of Jesus.

Jesus talks about the deep nature of sacrificial love. He is preparing his disciples for the cross. He is assuring them that the deep sacrifice he is making is to establish and affirm their friendship. God stoops to us creatures and washes our feet and then goes on to die the shameful death of a criminal. We didn’t take Jesus’ life from him so much as he laid it down. Through the agony of Gethsemane Jesus opted to endure the cross on our behalf.

Jesus talks about the hope he has for his friends. They are to bear fruit. They are to live in love. They are to be about the Father’s business. The call on them is “to love”. This text is where Maundy Thursday gets its name. Maundy derives from the latin root that means “to command” mandatum). We are commanded to love. We are not only to love those who love us and who provide for us and who are appealing to us. We are commanded to love our enemies and those who wish to work us harm and those who are repugnant to us. Jesus shows that in his willingness to die for us while we were yet sinners—see Romans 5:6-8. He shows that to us when he prays for his executors from the cross—see Luke 23:34.

Honorable veterans bear out these two threads as well. They offer themselves fully knowing that at any time they might be called to make the ultimate sacrifice. They do it for love of country and love of humanity. They do it to help purchase freedoms and liberties for some who don’t even begin to deserve such a sacrifice on their behalf. The sacrifices made are in order that peace and love might be the final outcome. There is a hope that war might become obsolete when all are set free. We ought to be deeply thankful for those who have braved awful conditions and hazardous circumstances that we might never have to know the terrors of war.

Today also happens to be the day when Søren Kiekegaard died in 1855. Here is a quote of his that seems well-suited to a day where we give thanks for freedoms paid for in blood and deep sacrifice:

How absurd men are! They never use the liberties they have, they demand those they do not have. They have freedom of thought, they demand freedom of speech.

Either/Or, vol. 1, "Diapsalmata" (1843)

God, we thank you so much for the service of our veterans. Comfort the families who grieve untimely deaths—particularly those who grieve the massacre at Fort Hood. Help us cherish the hard won liberties that are ours. Help us especially cherish the hard won freedom we have from Jesus’ work on the cross. Help us love our enemies and make war a thing of the past. Amen.