Saturday, July 31, 2010

e-vo for week of July 28

Dearest e-votees-

As mentioned, this devotion is coming out a little late this week due to our Middle School mission trip to Seattle. If you are so inclined you can look at photos from this faith adventure at:

I appreciate your patience. Have a blessed weekend and may your time of worship be blessed as well.



13 Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." 14 But he said to him, "Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?" 15 And he said to them, "Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions." 16 Then he told them a parable: "The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, "What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' 18 Then he said, "I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' 20 But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."

Luke 12:13-21, NRSV

What is the issue that you would want to appeal to Jesus? In our gospel text for this weekend we have the appeal for Jesus to act as arbitrator in a family dispute. Jesus rebuffs the request. What is something going on in your life that you would want God to enter and settle in your favor? Are there issues at your workplace or in your home? Are you involved in a dispute over property or money? Are you pulling more than your fair share while your sibling seems to skate by sitting at the feet of Jesus? Are you the one who faithfully stayed behind working the family farm while your sibling was sowing wild oats? Where has injustice been inflicted upon you that needs redress from the Lord?

The hard truth of this gospel text and of life in general is that God doesn’t devote much time or energy to entering into our disputes and settling them. When we seek justice we often find that we have been perpetrators of injustice or at least benefactors of grace well beyond our merit. God is busy reaching out to those who have little to none. Widows, orphans and aliens seem to take priority over those who have but are angling for more. Tax collectors and sinners and lepers and prostitutes seem to generate more interest than our pensions and our family squabbles over heirlooms and our ways of dictating how church ought to be. Jesus responds that life doesn’t consist in the abundance of possessions. Apparently Jesus doesn’t pay much heed to Madison Avenue and those who generate advertising campaigns.

Our culture tells us to work hard, save as we can and then to retire comfortably to relax, eat, drink and be merry. Madison Avenue would even invite us to eat, drink and be merry right now for tomorrow we might die (perhaps they have been reading Isaiah 22:13b). We are taught and encouraged and invited to look out for our own interests and comfort. We are called to store up treasures for ourselves.

Jesus offers a pointed parable about what might happen when we look out for ourselves but are not rich towards God. Rich towards God is a matter of not neglecting stewardship of our time, treasure and talent to the church and to the world. Rich towards God is a matter of feeding, clothing, visiting and caring for the needy (see Matthew 25:40). Rich towards God is a matter of seeing that other have enough to eat and drink. Rich towards God is spreading merriment to those on the fringes who might not have so many reasons to rejoice.

The sad and condemning truth of our world is that there are many resources to tend to the needs of the world but we covet and gather and steal them from one another. There isn’t so much an issue of amount of resources but rather resource allocation. God calls us to work hard and share the blessings with others. God calls us to sometimes take the unjust result and even multiply it (see Matthew 5:38-48) that we might bless our enemies. God calls us to a hard and different place. Jesus calls us to take up our cross.

God isn’t against having a good time or having food to eat and drink to drink. Jesus had the reputation of being a glutton and drunkard and of one who mingled with sinners and outcasts. God just wants us to include others especially those others wouldn’t. If you really want to catch a glimpse of what that might look at you might enjoy Tony Campolo's birthday party story.

God stir us to be people who throw birthday party’s for Agneses. Help us be less interested in getting our fair share and more interested in advocating for the poor and the neglected and the forgotten. Help us eat, drink and be merry with you and all of your beloved creation. Make us more like you. Amen.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

e-vo for week of July 21

Dearest e-votees-

My apologies that this is getting out to you so late in the week. I lost track of time with all the fun we were having with our VBS (SonRock Kids Camp). Next week might be a little tardy too. We are leaving this morning for a middle school mission trip to Seattle and won’t be back to town until next Wednesday. Any prayers you could lift up towards that endeavor would be greatly appreciated. I appreciate your patience and pray that these weekly insertions are a blessing to you.



1 [Jesus] was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." 2 He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial." 5 And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, "Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.' 7 And he answers from within, "Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.' 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 9 "So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Luke 11:1-13, NRSV

This account of Jesus teaching the Lord’s Prayer comes on the heels of the visit to Mary and Martha. It is interesting to note that the other account of Jesus teaching the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) is different than this one. It is also interesting to note that neither line up with what many use on Sunday morning or in their personal devotions. I’m not so sure Jesus was that interested in scripted prayers. It seems as though he was much more concerned about the right placement of the heart rather than the right words with the right inflections. Scripted or rote prayers aren’t the issue—praying faithfully to a God who wants our prayers is what matters most. If scripted prayers help with that right placement of heart then thanks be to God.

I am fond of the stories of persistent petitioners. This story and the one of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8) both have the same sense. If you pester people enough they will do what is right even if they don’t care about you. The judge yields even though he neither fears God nor cares about people. The friend above yields not because of the friendship but because of the persistence. This has some powerful implications for social advocacy and calling people in power to do what’s right.

This form is one that is fairly common in scripture. It is an argument from the lesser to the greater. If we, though we are sinful, can be moved by persistence and petition to do what is right how much more will God respond when we faithfully bring persistent petitions. If we know how to give our child good gifts, though we are evil, how much more will God lavish the Holy Spirit upon those who ask for that gift?

I had a reluctant seminary professor who didn’t always return papers in a timely fashion. Eventually I decided to adopt the role of the persistent widow. I said to this professor “You know that there is Biblical precedent for nagging to get what you want” This professor said “Yes.” I said “You know that you really should be returning my papers.” This professor again said “Yes.” “So then,” I said, “you won’t mind if I nag at you until your return my papers.” “No.” said this professor. The nagging ensued. And the rate of paper return increased.

E-mails such as:

You neither fear God nor care about men but because I nag you, you will return my papers.

~The Persistent e-widow

proved effective.

If in such a small matter I was able to make some progress due to persistence and petitioning how much more should I be a person of prayer crying out to God for the things that the world needs.

Unfortunately, I didn’t generalize this principle very well. I was content to have what I needed and really didn’t worry so much about the rest of the class (who didn’t get their papers back so regularly). It is way too easy to fight for what directly affects us and leave the world in the lurch. Caring only for our own needs and neglecting the similar needs of others runs counter to the spirit of the Lord’s Prayer. Daily bread for us alone is insufficient.

Dear God, shape us into faithful and persistent prayer warriors. Help us never stop asking until justice and basic needs are available for all. Teach us to bless our children well and to drink in the blessings you have for us, your children. Amen.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

e-vo for week of July 14

Dearest e-votees-

The appointed texts this week from the Old and the New Testament are very familiar ones to those who have been part of a church community for any length of time. The New Testament reading is Luke 10:38-42—Jesus visiting with Mary and Martha. The Old Testament reading is Genesis 18:1-10a—Abraham’s household receiving the 3 visitors by the oaks of Mamre who inform Abraham and Sarah about the arrival of Isaac. (some icons of the of the Holy Trinity depict these three and see an empty spot at the table where we are invited into community with the community of God—that’s something compelling and powerful to dwell upon).

For our time this week, however, we’ll use the appointed psalm (Psalm 15) as our meditative focus.

May we all choose the one thing that is needful and be hospitable to strangers who may be bearing promises this coming week.



1 O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill? 2 Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart; 3 who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors; 4 in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear the Lord; who stand by their oath even to their hurt; 5 who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent. Those who do these things shall never be moved.

Psalm 15, NRSV

Reflection on this psalm needs to be prefaced with the fact that none of us are worthy to abide in the Lord’s tent or dwell on the Lord’s holy hill on our own. We are unable to live the requisite life. We are granted access to God through the saving work of Jesus on the cross.

Jesus’ life, death and ministry trump our failings. Access is granted to the most holy place and to the holy hill and into the community of the Trinity by virtue of Jesus’ gracious and costly invitation.

The fact that Jesus has most fully granted us access to God does not negate Psalm 15. In fact, as we have been give great freedoms and liberties through Christ they are given in order that we might use them to live more fully into the expectations of Psalm 15. The equation has been reversed and through access to the Lord we are even more strongly called to live lives of integrity and justice and faithfulness.

We are called to speak the truth from our hearts. The world lives in deceptions, head fakes, spins, lies of omission, little white lies and big honking huge bald-faced bold-print 128-pt font lies. Much of advertising involves creating false needs and then offering insufficient solutions to those trumped up needs and wants. Speaking the truth is risky and sometimes a lonely place. Speaking the truth got Jesus hung up for display in a lonely place on a very unholy hill. Jesus still calls on us to take up our cross. Jesus still calls on us to speak the truth in love. We can as God gives us wisdom and power and courage.

There is a prohibition of lending money at interest. How will our credit-driven society function? How will we buy a house or a car? Won’t our modern society melt away if things are sold at fair prices with cash and no ability to gouge those in need by those who already have? We are called to share with those in need. We are called to live within our means. We are called to help dismantle systems that prey upon the needs and wants of those who lack the resources we might have. Jesus still calls us to not send them away but for us to give them something to eat. Jesus still calls us to chose the needful thing and not be worried and distracted about all the others. We can as God gives us wisdom and power and courage.

Psalm 15 lifts up the ones who stand by oaths even when they hurt. We are in a society that thrives on loopholes and excuses and renegotiated contracts. We are invited to get as much as possible for ourselves and to duck as many responsibilities as possible. God lifts up the ones who live out their marital oaths deep into end-stages of disease and dementia and failed oaths on the part of the other. Oaths and duties and codes of conduct are all too easily shunned in our throwaway society. Jesus still calls us to be different and faithful and abiding. Jesus calls us to be people of our word and people of God’s Word. We can as God gives wisdom and power and courage.

God, You call us to be so much more than we are. You love us just as we are but truly love us too much to leave us that way. Shape us and move us into the forms and places and kinds of people You want us to be. Give us wisdom and power and courage that we might glorify You with our lives. Amen.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

e-vo for week of July 7

Dearest e-votees-

This installment is coming out early since I will be at the Blackfeet Indian Reservation with a group of high school students on a service-mission trip this week.

If you have room in your prayer lists please add our group. We will be travelling by train to Whitefish, travelling by caravan to the reservation and serving with Youthworks! July 4-9. We will return the same way and be back to Portland by July 11. Please pray that we would be safe, that God would do through us and in us what is pleasing and good and that we would strive to see the image of God in all those we encounter. Thank you.



25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" 27 He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." 28 And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live." 29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 30 Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, "Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.' 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" 37 He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

Luke 10:25-37, NRSV

The parable of the Good Samaritan is one that is familiar and yet so easy to ignore.

The lawyer stands up in front of all (with a desire to test Jesus—rather presumptuous). He asks what must he do to inherit eternal life. The lawyer rightly sums up all the Law and the Prophets with the charge to love God with one’s whole being and the Golden Rule. Knowing the right answers is not sufficient.

The lawyer should have stopped there. But not only did the lawyer want to test Jesus—he wants to show that he himself passes the test. He asks who is his neighbor. Presumably this is so that he can demonstrate that anyone mentioned by Jesus has been covered by his largesse. As Jesus is known to do he turns the question, the questioner and the motivation on their heads.

Jesus tells a story of a man going down to Jericho from Jerusalem. All of the good people who pass by (a priest and a Levite) step out of the way to avoid helping the man who had been beset by robbers. Along comes a “bad” person (Samaritans and Jews were not on good terms). It is the one who was shunned by the common culture who helped the fallen man. He goes to extreme measures to see to the care of one who may well have shunned the help if he was truly aware of the source.

The lawyer probably wanted to show where the limits of his care and generosity could be safely established. Jesus tells a dangerous story of almost reckless compassion from a surprising source. When the lawyer rightly answers that the Samaritan was the most neighborly of the three who passed by the fallen man Jesus charges that lawyer to go and do likewise.

Where are you in this story today? Are you hurt and on the road? Are you one who might pass by (better things to do, needing to stay ritually clean, concerned for your own safety, not sure about this one on the road)? Are you one in a strange place noticing needs and knowing you could do something to help? Are you an innkeeper who might get a proposition that involves trust and largesse on your own part as well? Are you the lawyer wanting to justify yourself and have all know how well you have done? Are you the one who knows the truth and has stories to tell that will change lives if the hearers have ears to hear?

Wherever you find yourself in the story today God will find you. God loves you and will not forsake you. Jesus is like the Samaritan. Jesus comes to a foreign world and pours himself out on behalf of those who might reject the help if they really knew who it was (that is what the cross was about, in part). Jesus shows mercy. We are loved and salved and saved.

When we really get that deep and abiding truth we can start living into the charge to go and do likewise.

God, shape us again by this powerful and familiar story. Help us love all and see your image in them. Send folks to help us and send us to help others. Teach us again and again to “Go and do likewise.” Amen.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

e-vo for week of June 30

Dearest e-votees-

Saturday (July 3) is the appointed day to commemorate the disciple Thomas. For those of you who will be in church on Saturday and who are following the appointed lectionary lessons for that day you will hear John 14:1-7 read.

For those of us who won’t be in church on that day I thought we might linger with that text as well in our devotional focus this week.

I will be out of the office on a service-mission trip with a group going to Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana this coming week. I will send out next week’s e-vo in advance later today as well. Please keep our trip in your prayers.

Have a blessed celebration of Independence Day. May we all remember how Christ has called us to use those freedoms and liberties.



“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

John 14:1-7, NRSV

Thomas doesn’t get a whole lot of lines in the gospels. The few that are most remembered are poorly categorized and over-emphasized. He gets labels such as “doubter”. Doubting and skepticism and asking the hard questions are underrated. Thomas is the example of a faithful one who asks real and important questions. When I think of Thomas my mind is drawn to essays such as Fighting Over the New Testament by Gordon Atkinson (aka RealLivePreacher). I am glad to count Thomas among one of our brothers in the faith.

Thomas’ other quote that seems to get lost as people chide him for being a doubter is John 11:16: Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Those sound like pretty faithful and courageous words to me. How about to you?

I taught for 7 years in public high school. I have spent some time in the little desks in the classroom too. I appreciate people who ask aloud the questions that everyone are asking in their heads. Thomas strikes me as such a student in our text today. Jesus is talking about going and coming again. Thomas doesn’t get where he is going. There are many times in the gospel of John where Jesus talks about going and people not knowing the way. Thomas asks the questions many of us would ask—where are you going Jesus? How can we get where you are going? How can we know the right way? How can we avoid the wrong way? How can we know we’ll be together? How can we follow after you better?

Jesus responds that it comes in terms of relationships. If we know Jesus we will know the Father. Jesus tends to our relationship with God the Father. Jesus enables, creates and sustains our relationship with God the Father. Baptism and communion are essential to that relationship. Studying scripture is too. In John Jesus pierces locked walls and stony hearts to greet the disciples with a “Peace be with you.” When Thomas wants sure proof that Jesus has really risen from the dead (seems reasonable to me) Jesus offers that to him. When Thomas and the others are out fishing Jesus comes and meets them and feeds them breakfast on the beach (loaves and fishes, interesting) and offers restoration. Jesus offers assurance and all manner of sustenance to Thomas. Jesus offers it to us as well.

Thomas is a faithful follower who asks questions, needs assurance and displays courage and perseverance. How blessed we would all be if we could be more like this Thomas.

God, we thank you for the life and testimony of Thomas. Help us to know well that Jesus is indeed the way and the truth and the life. Calm our troubled hearts and continue to show us the way. Amen.