Wednesday, April 28, 2010

e-vo for week of April 28

Dearest e-votees-

Our appointed gospel lesson for this week is at the tail end of the Last Supper and the beginning of what is sometimes referred to as the upper room discourse.

Jesus begins this teaching with a command that gives Maundy Thursday its name. The Great Commandment is this: “love one another”.



31 When [Judas] had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, "Where I am going, you cannot come.' 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

John 13:31-35, NRSV

The world is watching those who claim to follow after Jesus. The world is watching us. They are watching to see if we live what we say we believe. They are watching how we treat each other. They are watching how we treat our brothers and sisters from other denominations. They are watching how we treat our enemies.

If we are disciples of Jesus then our lives should be shaped by his life. Our words should be shaped by his words. Our love should be shaped by his love. Our lives should be shaped by his death. And our deaths should be shaped by his life after the grave.

Jesus tells the disciples (and us) that for the time being we cannot go where he is going. We are called to stay here and to bear witness to Jesus. The world wants to know if this Jesus is real. The world wants to know if there is a love that does better than the broken forms of love of this world. The world wants to know about things spiritual. The world is thirsty and hunger and empty.

When we love we slake thirst and sate hunger and fill voids.

God use us as agents of your love in this troubled world. Amen.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

e-vo for week of April 21

Dearest e-votees-

This week the texts are about sheep and lambs and shepherd. You will find the beloved 23rd Psalm as part of worship. May we all know our shepherd’s voice and respond and follow when called all to the glory of God.



22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly." 25 Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father's hand. 30 The Father and I are one."

John 10:22-30, NRSV

We had a family in the neighborhood growing up. It was a big family. When it came time for dinner the father would step out in the backyard and let out a piercing whistle. The kids, wherever they were scattered in the neighborhood, would hear the sound and know it was time to go home. The kid’s knew their father’s whistle and they followed it.

The movie Babe is the marvelous story of a pig trying to live a sheepdog’s life. The sheep don’t know whether to trust this pig who is trying to give them directions. They finally agree to work with him when he speaks the sheep’s secret phrase “Baa, Ram, Ewe, Baa, Ram, Ewe, to your breed, your fleece, your clan be true, Sheep be true, Baa, Ram, Ewe”. (X-philes (fans of the X-Files) might even remember Scully muttering this under her breath as she and Mulder wandered through a creepy farm). The sheep aren’t sure who to trust until they hear the familiar phrase. The sheep knew their clan’s secret password and they followed it.

There are a multitude of voices calling out for our attention—some we recognize clearly and heed or ignore accordingly. Many say things that have some intrigue or appeal but we aren’t quite sure how to respond. Jesus says his sheep hear his voice. Jesus says he knows them. Jesus says that they follow him. Where do you hear Jesus’ voice in your life? Scripture? Baptism? Communion? Sermons? In times of prayer? We need to continue to go to those places. When we hear the shepherd’s voice we need to respond—to react—to abide (an important word in John)—to follow.

There are so many things that distract but one that is really needful. We need to hear Jesus’ voice. We need to drink in his words that are living waters. We need to rest in his truths and his promises. We need to be like Mary couched at Jesus’ feet choosing the one needful thing that will not be taken away from her. Mary knew her shepherd’s voice—she followed. Do we?—Will we?

God, help us rest in the truth that we are in your hands and nothing can snatch us away. Speak to us. Help us hear. Help us follow. All to your glory. Amen.

Friday, April 16, 2010

e-vo for week of April 14

Dearest e-votees-

The assigned psalm for this 3rd Sunday of Easter is our focus for this week.

I hope and pray you are savoring this Easter season. Easter is a 50-day season. Sometimes we let Easter end too quickly (as we do with the 12 days of Christmas). The over-commercialization and hyper-activity of the card companies can draw us off focus.

We of all people should luxuriate in good news of the empty tomb.



1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me. 2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 3 O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit. 4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name. 5 For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. 6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, "I shall never be moved." 7 By your favor, O Lord, you had established me as a strong mountain; you hid your face; I was dismayed. 8 To you, O Lord, I cried, and to the Lord I made supplication: 9 "What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? 10 Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me! O Lord, be my helper!" 11 You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, 12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

Psalm 30, NRSV

This psalm is appealing because it is real. It doesn’t sugarcoat the hard parts of life. We do get sick and need healing. We are beset by enemies. Death and grieving and mourning are a very real part of our existence in this mortal frame. We can antagonize God and merit God’s wrath. We certainly sin and the consequences come our way. Very hard things happen to us by our own fault and sometimes by us being blindsided by the world doing its thing.

Sometimes people don’t want to acknowledge or don’t know how to deal with the pain of others. So we lie and say we are okay. Or we miss obvious clues and try to shift the conversation to more uplifting topics. We don’t talk about our pets being put to death but rather put to sleep. We underplay and understate the pain as if somehow that will make it go away.

This psalm calls out the pain.

But this psalm also finishes the story. Have you ever heard one of those jokes where someone sets up a long story and there is really no punchline. The gag is to see how long the teller can string the listeners along. I hope my sermons don’t do that—that’s certainly not the intention. Or worse, have you ever had someone tell you an involved joke and then completely forget or botch the punchline? Not good.

This psalm calls out the pain as it is but then remembers that God does bring rejoicing. God’s favor is towards God’s people. Joy comes in the morning. Mourning shifts to dancing. Sackcloth gives way to outfits more suited to a feast—a wedding even.

Good Friday is real and painful. No one knows that more than God. But that isn’t the whole story. Easter and resurrection hope come too. If we really know that it might shape how we live and it might shape how we enter into the pain of others---with authenticity and with hope.

God, draw us ever deeper into the good news of Easter. Amen.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

e-vo for week of April 7

Dearest e-votees-

This Sunday—the one immediately after Easter—was referred to as “Intern Sunday” at seminary. The supervising pastor would have preached on Easter and so this Sunday would fall to the intern. For churches without an intern it would then pass to the associate pastor. Attendance is often pretty low for this Sunday (it is after Easter and Holy Week and whatnot people just need a break, right?).

It is unfortunate that it works out like that because the Thomas text is powerful and gritty and real. It engages the resurrection as it impacts the lives of those who lay claim to Jesus. Hopefully our lives can be touched by the power and grit and reality of this engaging Easter account.



19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin ), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." 26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." 28 Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

John 20:19-31, NRSV

A few points:

Jesus comes in through the locked doors. The obstacles we use to barricade ourselves away from God’s love are not sufficient. There is a powerful song by Julie Miller called “He Walks Through Walls” (from album of the same name). If you want to hear it for free you can at

Jesus shows up twice and both times walks through the shut/locked doors bringing a word of “Peace.” Where in your life could you use some of this peace from God?

Thomas has been given an unfortunate nickname. Thomas wants to have his faith authenticated. It is a pretty remarkable claim that the other disciples told him in “We have seen the Lord.” Thomas wasn’t lacking in faith nor courage. He was the one who said “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” in John 11:11b when Jesus tells the disciples they are going to Bethany to raise Lazarus. Thomas was also the courageous one to speak what probably everyone was thinking—“Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” in John 14. Faithful yet questioning Thomas would be a much better nickname but it will never catch on—too bad.

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.” Sometimes we forget what a narrow slice of Jesus we have in scripture. We have almost nothing of his childhood (birth/flight to Egypt --> 12 at the temple --> adult ministry). We have no clear picture of what happened to Joseph or how Jesus related to his earthly father. We have no sense of how Jesus got through puberty and adolescence without sin. I wish we had so much more. But what we have is sufficient. We are still reading the book and people are still coming to faith—thanks be to God.

For our contemporary service at church we have been incorporating videos intended to provoke thought and response. This week we are using one from Sermon Spice called Blindness. You can see it at

It in stark manner shows how Jesus turns lives upside down taking death to life, blindness to sight, doubt to faith. It seems to be fitting to show when considering Thomas—his questions, his experience and the labels that have been dropped on him over the years. Perhaps this has been your experience. It has been mine.

God, stir us to believe and trust in you. Help us know that there is nothing—being lost, being blind, being broken, being tired, being afraid, being ________, being ________—nothing, that can separate us from you. Walk through our locked doors and into our barricaded hearts and bring life. Amen.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

e-vo for Holy Week

Dearest e-votees-

I hope and pray that you are having a blessed Holy Week. Today is Maundy Thursday. It is the day we commemorate the Last Supper, the washing of the disciples’ feet by Jesus and the great commandment to “love one another” (the word “Maundy” derives from the Latin word for “command”).

May you be fed with the bread of life, humbled by and responsive to the call to be about washing feet and beyond all things loving. And may you be blessed to be among a community of others who are similarly engaged in this powerful part of the Passion account.



1 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" 7 Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." 8 Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." 9 Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" 10 Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you." 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean." 12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, "Where I am going, you cannot come.' 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

John 13:1-17, 31b-35, NRSV

Three things to note about this account:

We resist God’s terms. Peter represents us all in his haggling over if and how he will have his feet washed. Jesus comes as a slave doing the some of the lowest work in the house. Peter resists. Jesus persists. Peter negotiates. Jesus does what Jesus intended to do. God comes to us on God’s terms—in forms that are unsettling and challenging. We resist. God persists. We negotiate. God does what God intends to do. The question for us is “Will we have a share with God?” If so it is deeply dependent on receiving God on God’s terms.

Judas was at the Last Supper. We can be so quick to determine that others are not worthy to receive communion or to have a part in our community. We judge. We quarantine. We shun. Judas was at the supper. Judas had his feet washed by Jesus. If there is room enough for Judas on this most holy of nights surely we can make room for others who don’t pass our muster. The truth is there are other people who look at us just as harshly. None of us deserve to be here—all of us come by grace. For all the reasons people move to exclude others from our communities we have this stunning counter-example of Jesus tending to Judas. Not so long after this Jesus will be praying to “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” The call on us is to be like Jesus which includes reaching out to our enemies with love and humility.

“If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” There is a distinction between knowing and doing. There are blessings to be had when we follow after Jesus with a basin and a towel. When we allow our lives to be transformed into the ways that Jesus calls us we will be blessed. More importantly we can be a blessing to others. There are all sorts of ragtag people in this world—including us. What an honor and a privilege to be able to bless others by serving them, by letting them come as they are and by entering into the uncomfortable spots with them in order that all of us might be blessed. Life and ministry—I continue to learn—are quite messy and humbling at times. But there is blessing. And we are blessed by God in order that we might be a blessing.

Dear God,

+ Have your way with us this day—draw us in on your terms.
+ Stir us to love and reach out to our enemies this day—make us more like You.
+ Help us bless others this day—because you have surely blessed us.