Monday, May 24, 2010

e-vo for week of May 26

Dearest e-votees-

This coming Sunday is set aside to commemorate the Holy Trinity in our liturgical cycle. We enter into the mystery of God in three persons. We are invited into the community with those three. When we engage that community we find fruits coming to bear in our lives—hope, character and endurance. May we bear those fruits well and offer them to those we encounter who need them as well.


1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5, NRSV

We are justified by faith. We are aligned to and with God through faith. We are saved by grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8) and so we have peace with God. This peace and this reconciliation come to us as pure and freely given gifts (though the cost was exceedingly high and paid in full on Good Friday). That condition of being forgiven without ever being able to merit it is the foundation of our faith life. We respond in love to that which love has given to us—restored relationship with God, eternal life and peace. We have the hope of sharing in the glory of God.

Since we have such a high calling and deeply abiding peace we are able to endure sufferings—even embrace them—even boast in them. We don’t seek out suffering for suffering’s sake. We don’t put our self in harm’s way to satisfy masochistic tendencies. We do, however, seek to endure suffering with joy and faith. As we faithfully engage the points of suffering in our life we know that God brings about the fruit of endurance. Through God we can abide and persist and even thrive in the most adverse conditions. As we stare down the sufferings that life throws our way we can help others find ways to endure and persist as well.

Since God is working in us the fruit of endurance we are being changed. We are growing into who we are and whose we are. We are having our character refashioned. We are gaining traits and abilities that can only be forged through suffering. Extreme conditions and successfully navigating them have a powerful ability to shape who we are. Boot camps, two-a-day practices, endurance runs, intensive medical procedures, survival situations, sustained crises, internships, cauldrons of relationships, etc, etc. all serve to shape us into someone different. When God is alive and at work in the process we come out of the fiery experiences with a new and better character forged.

Since God is the one at work in us bringing forth the fruit of character and since God will complete the work that God began in us (Philippians 1:6) we have hope. The hope that God gives (like the peace that God gives) is different than that of the world. Our hope is cross-shaped. We know what was borne to bring us hope. We know that we can persist in hope even as we endure the cross in our own life. We know that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” and so we don’t have to let despair and defeat win. There is hope. Jesus is our hope. We bear that Jesus into a world that can at times seem quite hopeless.

Threefold God, thank you for inviting us into your community. Help us abide with you. Work into our lives endurance and character and hope. Use us to welcome others into this holy community as well. Let our lives be manifestations of endurance and character and hope in the lives of those we encounter. Amen.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

e-vo for week of May 19

Dearest e-votees-

This Sunday is the Day of Pentecost. It is the 50th day after Easter (counting the starting day like we do when we call Easter Sunday the third day after Good Friday).

It is the day when the Holy Spirit was unleashed on the early church so that all who were present could hear the testimonies about Jesus in their own languages. The number of languages perceived were more than the number of those speaking—yet all heard.

It is the day when we wear red and pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to blow through us and set us on fire as followers of Jesus.

May that same Holy Spirit blow through these words and this time spent together.



8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the Father'? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. 15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

25 "I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

John 14:8-17, 25-27, NRSV

This gospel lesson comes from the “Upper Room Discourses” (aka the “Farewell Discourses”) of Jesus. Jesus is preparing to leave his disciples and so he is talking with them about things of great significance.

Jesus is about to leave but he is sending the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comes to teach and to remind the disciples. The Holy Spirit is alive and at work in us to teach us and to remind us everything that Jesus has taught us. That Spirit is the same one that brooded over the chaos during creation. That Spirit is the same one that blew through the dusty bones in Ezekiel and restored life. We are a forgetful people. We are a people who don’t know as much as we should. Our lives can seem quite chaotic. Our lives can seem dead and dusty. The Holy Spirit continues to do what it always has bringing learning, inspiration, conviction, revelation, order and life. Jesus’ promises to his disciples apply to us as well.

Jesus gives his peace. Peace, or shalom, was an important concept in Jewish culture. When Jesus walked through the walls when the disciples were cowering behind locked doors he offers them his peace. Jesus often speaks words of peace or not being afraid. He gives us a peace that is profoundly different from the “peace” of the world. We need not fear. Jesus has done all is required. Beyond that, Jesus offers us the comforter, the Holy Spirit, to guide us. That Holy Spirit will abide with us forever. We are not alone.

God, thank you for the powerful gift of the Holy Spirit. Help us to receive that blessed gift and the abide in your peace. Amen.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

e-vo for week of May 12

Dearest e-votees-

Thursday of this week is the day of the church year that is set aside to commemorate Jesus ascending back into heaven after spending 40 days (see verse 3 below) after Easter offering convincing proofs of his resurrection and talking with the disciples about the kingdom of God.

In another 10 days (50 days after Easter) is the high holy day of the church we call Pentecost.

May the Holy Spirit blow through these words and through all of our days.



1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. "This," he said, "is what you have heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."

Acts 1:1-11, NRSV

The ascension is the connector between Luke and Acts. Both of these books are written to Theophilus (see Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) which means literally “God lover”--perhaps written to someone named “God lover” or perhaps to a community of lovers of God. Certainly the Holy Spirit inspired and preserved these books so that those of us modern lovers of God might receive the testimony as well.

The ascension is the last scene of Luke. The ascension is at the very beginning of Acts. The ascension is confessed freely in the creed: on the third day He rose again, He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. The ascension is not unlike the transfiguration of Jesus—powerful, unearthly, hard to grasp, leaves the witnesses stunned and makes a lot more sense after some time has passed and some meditation and reflection have been accomplished.

If you ever find yourself in Sioux Falls, SD and have a chance stop by Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and look at the artwork behind the altar. They have a stylized depiction of Acts 1:10-11. It is stunning and inviting. It draws us into the account of Luke and reminds us that Jesus will come again (also part of the creed).

Jesus promises power when the Holy Spirit comes that we might be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Jesus says in John 16:5-16 that it is better that he go so that the Holy Spirit can come and do the Spirit’s work. Jesus is going but will come again. In the mean time we have the comforter, the advocate, the breath of God—the Holy Spirit.

God, stir up your Holy Spirit in us. Send us as your witnesses…

to our close and familiar places (home, work, friends, family)—Jerusalem.

to our surrounding and sometimes more challenging places (neighbors, communities, enemies, strangers and interlopers among us)—Judea and Samaria.

to the places we have yet to encounter (new communities, foreign lands, unfamiliar ideas and circumstances yet to arise)—the ends of the earth.

and help us bide our time well until Jesus returns again. Amen.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

e-vo for week of May 5

Dearest e-votees-

The first Thursday of the month of May is designated in the U.S. as the National Day of Prayer (see wiki/National_Day_of_Prayer if you want a history of how this day came to be).

It seems fitting this week to diverge from the Revised Common Lectionary to take a few moments to reflect on prayer (it might be a good week to take a few extra moments in prayer as well).



pray without ceasing

1 Thessalonians 5:17, NRSV

It isn’t so often that the citation is longer than the verse. It is so simple to say. As with many things that are easy to say, the living out is so much more challenging.

When many people think of prayer they think of bowed heads and eyes closed. If this is your model of prayer you will have a hard time praying without ceasing. And you will be especially hazardous on the road if you pray behind the wheel.

When many people think of prayer they think of reciting petitions by rote or by working through a set of prayers with mnemonic devices (beads, bells, incense, etc.). If this is your model of prayer you will have a hard time praying without ceasing. And you will be especially distracted and distracting as people try to engage you in everyday conversation.

When many people think of prayer they think of reading devotional writings and scriptures with great focus and purpose. If this is your model of prayer you will have a hard time praying without ceasing. And you will be especially annoying to those trying to sleep while you have the light on and speak the holy words.

Of course all of these forms of prayer have validity and have their place. They are not, however, the essence of prayer. And they are not what we are called to do without ceasing.

We are called to be in a place and a posture of prayer wherever we find ourselves. That is praying without ceasing.

When ambulances tear by us with sirens blaring and lights flashing we can offer a prayer of safety and healing for all involved. When we engage others in confrontation and conflict we can pray “Dear Lord, help me see Your image in this one and help them to see it in me.” When we eat we can pray “Thank You for this daily bread.” When we work we can pray “help me honor and glorify You in all I do.” We need not consciously think these things or mouth them with our lips. We are just invited to dwell, to linger, to abide (a good John word) in the places of prayer. When we drowse and when we wake. We are at times of birth and dawn and when we are at the brink of night and death.

May all of us be steeped in prayer this day. Whatever we do, whatever we face, whoever we encounter—may they all be bathed in prayers. Prayers of thanksgiving and prayers of petition. Eloquent or fumbled it matters not. Sure and certain or more halting it matters not. Rote or free flowing it matters not. What matters is that we pray.

God, stir us ever more and more to pray without ceasing. Amen.