Thursday, February 25, 2010

e-vo for week of February 24

Dearest e-votees-

I hope and pray that you are doing well on this 8th day of Lent (32 days of Lent left; 37 calendar days until Easter Vigil). For this week’s e-vo we’ll look at an excerpt from the appointed psalm for this coming Sunday—Psalm 27.




4 One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. 5 For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock. 6 Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord. 7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! 8 "Come," my heart says, "seek his face!" Your face, Lord, do I seek. 9 Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!

Psalm 27:4-9, NRSV

What would you ask of the Lord if you were given the opportunity? Would you ask for health and long life? Would you ask for blessing and prosperity? Would you ask for a loving and faithful partner in life? Would you ask for harm and devastation for your enemies? If you were given the opportunity to ask the Lord for one thing what would it be?

The psalmist makes a choice that wouldn’t have come to top of my list—to live in the house of the Lord. In making that choice the psalmist is able to behold the Lord’s beauty and inquire in the Lord’s temple. If you were assured that you can gaze on the Lord’s beauty and inquire to the Lord about your concerns would you opt to live in the house of the Lord?

The truth is that the temple of the Lord (at least the one made of stones) has been laid to waste. The house of the Lord is no longer present as it once was. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot seek to dwell in the house of the Lord.

People are fashioned in the image of God. As we spend time with people we can behold the beauty of the Lord—particularly if we have eyes of faith.

We are given great freedom to inquire of the Lord whatever we wish—particularly if we are enter into prayer to the Lord.

As we engage our neighbors and as we call upon the Lord we will not be cast off—we will not be forsaken. God has salvation prepared for us and for our neighbors. Thanks be to God.

God, help us love you and see your beauty in others. Help us seek after you and pray to you regularly. Help us know that wherever we are can be your house when we have the eyes of faith. Amen.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

e-vo for Ash Wednesday

Dearest e-votees-

Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return:


(see Genesis 3:19)




Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 16:1-6, 16-21, NRSV

Today is a day to be honest. Honest with ourselves. Honest with others. And most importantly: honest with our God.

Practicing our piety in order to be noticed by others is like proclaiming loudly our love for someone so that bystanders might be impressed. It is perhaps the right words or the right actions but with all the wrong intent. It is like giving to a charity so that our name will appear on the “Sustaining Member Gifts” plaque in perpetuity. It is perhaps the right gift but the motivation is all messed up. It is like speaking to someone but a little too loudly and a little too animatedly so others in the vicinity might hear us and notice as well. The words may be true enough but the hope to get noticed is a little too overpowering and a little too revealing.

The honest hard truth is that all of us have borne our broken human nature. We have fallen short of the mark. We have heard God’s good promises and turned another way. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not even done a very good job of loving ourselves. Our mortality and all its frailty are real and true and honest. Today is a day to linger in that place.

There is indeed good news for us and for all. It is most clearly recognized in the empty tomb and the appearances of the resurrected Jesus. In order to get there, however, we need to go through Holy Week and the agonies of the cross. In order to do that, we need to acknowledge our complicity in putting Jesus on the cross.

Please find a place today where you can gather with others and receive the mark of the cross. Together we enter into this most holy time called Lent. Feel the gritty cross as it is imposed. Hear the words spoken to you: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Embrace the honesty. Linger in that moment. And know the best is yet to come.

God, stir us to be so very focused on you that we don’t even notice who is or is not noticing our piety. Give us hearts and courage and opportunity to invite others into this holy time of Lent. Take our hearts and our minds and our treasures and our times and put them all where you would have them to be. Amen.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

e-vo for week of February 10

Dearest e-votees-

This coming Sunday is Transfiguration—the last Sunday of Epiphany. It is when we remember the unusual experience that Jesus, Moses, Elijah, Peter, James and John shared up on the mountaintop. It is mentioned in 2 Peter 1:18—must have made an impression on Peter. Our appointed epistle text from 2 Corinthians talks about one of Moses’ mountaintop experiences as well.

We’ll use that text from 2 Corinthians to shape our devotion this week. Before that a disclaimer: this text could be used ineptly by some as anti-Semitic (against the Jews). That is not my intent. Please keep in mind that Paul (name attached to 2 Corinthians) and Jesus were both Jewish. You might find this light-hearted video amusing.

The point is that all of us can be veiled from God but we have been freed to engage God without those obstructions. And when we do we are transformed and equipped by God’s Holy Spirit to live and serve in freedom and joy.



Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2, NRSV

What hinders us from encountering God more directly? What veils separate us from God? Shame? Fear? Hard hearts? Hard minds? Doubt? Sin?

Does God hide God’s face from us? Our do we cower and hide our face from God?

Paul says that when one turns to the Lord—to Jesus—the veil of separation between us and God’s glory is removed.

God came into the world in Jesus that the separation might be breached.

Jesus healed and restored, engaged sinners and tax collectors, talked to Samaritans and religious leaders so that the separation might be broken down.

We people of hard hearts and hard minds chose to favor ourselves and our ways over those of God and so we crucified Jesus to restore the breach. We sealed him in a tomb and posted a guard at the door to replace a veil over our face with a curtain of stone to keep him locked away.

Even in death the veils were being undone—the Temple curtain tore at the moment of Jesus’ death (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). Either we were given full access to God or God’s limitations to dwell most fully in the Temple were undone as God came out into the world. (you might enjoy the rough-hewn video of Peter Mayer’s “Loose in the World”)

When the disciples were cowering in fear of the authorities and in shame of their own failings the resurrected Jesus walks through the walls and locked doors to get to them. The separations were undone. Not even death could hold him down.

Sometimes we try to restore the barriers in our own lives. We don veils. We lose heart. We engage in shameful things. We practice cunning. We falsify God’s word with our own words and our actions.

Try as we may those dividers will not defeat God’s grace and love most fully realized in Jesus.

God, draw us into you. Help us put away our distractions and the things we use to insulate ourselves from you. Transform and transfigure us all to your glory. Help us truly live in freedom and joy in service to you and to others. Amen.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

e-vo for week of February 3

Dearest e-votees-

This week contains the day (February 2) that is set aside to commemorate the Presentation of our Lord. The purity laws (see Leviticus 12) required 40 days to elapse between the birth of a male child and when he could be presented to the Lord. If you start counting on Christmas Day the 40th day is February 2nd.

For our devotional focus this week we’ll look at the appointed text from Luke for Presentation of our Lord.



When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord"), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons." Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, "Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." And the child's father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too." There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Luke 2:22-40, NRSV

One of the deep characteristics of Jesus’ life and ministry on this earth is that he brought to completion the promises and prophecies in the Law and the Prophets. He didn’t come to eradicate or trample on God’s promises to God’s people but rather to complete them. Simeon and Anna were ones who knew God and knew God’s promises. They were able to witness Jesus and Mary and Joseph abiding by God’s expectations. It is crucially important to people of faith to know that God does not abandon promises but fulfills them. Do you know that?

The last verse of our appointed text “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” aligns nicely with one coming in another 12 verses: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.” (NRSV) Jesus has come into the world to live out and deliver God’s promises. It is winsome to see God’s wisdom and power at work in Jesus. It is a revelation to us Gentiles and to the people of Israel.

God coming into a broken and sinful world can be difficult at times too. Mary’s soul was pierced at the foot of the cross. God’s promises being open to all can be unsettling to those of us who would rather have a more private club. But God’s grace and love and reconciliation pay no mind our arbitrary boundaries. God being true to God’s self and God’s promises necessitates rejecting our sin-stained forms and expectations.

A good summary of what Jesus came into the world to do on God’s behalf can be found in the following verse:

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

2 Corinthians 1:20, NIV

God, help us receive Jesus this day with joy and hope and expectation—like Simeon and like Anna. Give us grace to receive the promises that you make. Forgive us when we try to constrain your goodness with our hard hearts and our disbelief. We say “Amen” to your glory.