Monday, September 27, 2010

e-vo for week of September 29

Dearest e-votees-

This Wednesday, September 29, is the day set aside to commemorate Michael and All Angels.

I thought we might spend some time around the appointed gospel text which is Luke 10:17-20. In order to give it proper context I have included [Luke 10:1-16] as well.

May we all be comforted and blessed by the fact that our names are written in heaven.



[1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, "Peace to this house!' 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, "The kingdom of God has come near to you.' 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 "Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.' 12 I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town. 13 "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. 16 "Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me."]

17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!" 18 He said to them, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

Luke 10:[1-16] 17-20, NRSV

C.S. Lewis said in The Screwtape Letters that there are two mistakes that we can make in regards to demons. One is to pay too little attention to them and the other is to pay too much. They are equally delighted, he continues, with either error. May we get the balance right during this devotional reading and during our day serving out in the world today.

Jesus sends out seventy in pairs to serve as advance teams to prepare for his arrival and ministry. He assures them that they will be safe even though he is sending his sheep out among the wolves. They are to be agents of blessing and peace. The bring healing and herald the coming of the kingdom of God.

We are sent out into the world as well. We are called to prepare for his arrival when Jesus comes to the world in the second coming. We are also sent to be agents of blessing—blessing others as we ourselves have been blessed. We are sent to be messengers and heralds of peace with God. We are sent to be workers towards peace among people.

We engage those in the world sharing fellowship and food and space. We proclaim peace and work towards healing.

If we are rejected or scorned we can take comfort that our Lord was surely no less rejected and no less scorned.

We may find that we are able to tread on snakes and scorpions and other venomous spiritual manifestations. We may find we hold sway over the evil one. That may be but that isn’t the cause for our rejoicing. The demons have been defeated. They are in their last desperate moments. They are like cornered animals lashing out. The appointed epistle text for this day says this:

7 And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming, "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah, for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death. 12 Rejoice then, you heavens and those who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you with great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!"

Revelation 12:7-12, NRSV

We may run into that woe to be had on the earth and the sea. It might be that we are overwhelmed in our mortal frames by the great wrath of the devil whose sands are quickly running through the hourglass.

The point is not how strong we are or how strong the demons are. The point is not how victorious we are in squaring off against the demons. The point isn’t even if we win or lose, live or die.

Jesus came and was victorious. Jesus won all by losing all on the cross. Jesus came to life after death that we might have life in the face of death. Paul says it this way in Romans 14:8-9:

If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Because of what Jesus has done our names are written in heaven. For that we rejoice. We know whose we are and where we are going. For that we rejoice. We don’t need to fear nor fixate on the demons. For that we rejoice. Jesus is Lord and we are His. For that we rejoice.

God, give us eyes and hearts and faiths to dwell in the spiritual realms. Help us cling to you and your saving work. Send us as agents of peace and healing and proclamation into a world that is war-torn and wounded and needed a saving word. Amen.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

e-vo for week of September 22

Dearest e-votees-

There are two Lazaruses (Lazari?!?) in the New Testament.

There is the brother of Mary and Martha who was raised from the dead (all of the references to him can be found in John 11 and 12).

Then there is this other less fortunate Lazarus (all of the references to him can be found in our appointed gospel lesson for this Sunday from Luke 16). He was hungry and poor and covered in sores. This Lazarus ends up being comforted and protected by the patriarch Abraham.

Where do we find ourselves in this story that Jesus tells his disciples and tells to us this day?



19 "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24 He called out, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.' 25 But Abraham said, "Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.' 27 He said, "Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.' 29 Abraham replied, "They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.' 30 He said, "No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31 He said to him, "If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "

Luke 16:19-31, NRSV

There is something deeply comforting about this story told by Jesus. It is not long after Jesus’ statement: “You cannot serve God and wealth.” Lazarus has been cut off from food and comfort during his earthly sojourn. He is now in the presence of Abraham. Lazarus is receiving comfort that eluded him at the gate of the rich man’s house. It warms hearts to see one who has struggled and been deprived receiving good things. Mr. Martini and his family getting their new house in It’s a Wonderful Life is a cinematic joy. Jimmy Stewart, in the same movie, surrounded by family and friends, blessed with a free-will offering to cover a shortfall at the savings and loan, singing Auld Lang Syne is an image of Lazarus in Abraham’s kolpos (bosom, chest, lap, etc.—intimately near). There is something good and stirring about those who are lost or excluded or cutoff being found and included and folded into the intimate places of God. So much of Jesus’ life and ministry seemed to be about reaching out to the Lazari and taking them into intimate and comforting relationships with him.

There is something deeply disturbing about this story told by Jesus. Truth be told most of us are much closer to the rich man end of the wealth and poverty continuum. We may not be clad in purple nor have beggars living at the ends of our driveways but most of us have more than enough (certainly food and clothing which this Sunday’s epistle lesson says is sufficient for contentment—see 1 Timothy 6:6-8). We are more than content to have others serve us or labor in unjust situations to facilitate our lives of relative comfort. We have received many good things and not done all we can to alleviate the evil things that weigh upon others. This story told to Jesus’ disciples—including us—ought to alarm us and inform our lives.

Perhaps most disturbing is Abraham seemingly writing off the hopes of the five brothers of the rich man. The rich man pleads for Lazarus to be sent to offer warning to them so that they avoid his fate. How sad that the rich man is still trying to benefit at the expense of Lazarus. First he wants Lazarus to fetch him a drink. When Abraham says that can’t happen the rich man wants to discharge Lazarus as an errand boy messenger to his brothers. Abraham nixes that too and says that the brothers have Moses and the prophets (the writings of the Old Testament). Abraham says that if they won’t abide by Moses and the prophets even Lazarus rising from the dead won’t save them.

We too have Moses and the prophets. We have even seen a Lazarus rise from the dead. We have record of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. We are at a great vantage point to see the things that the rich man wanted his brothers to see. We are without excuse. We do well to mind the words of Jesus and Abraham.

There are Lazari in our world—will we provide balm for their sores and food for their hunger? We might even be called upon to tear up our purple clothes and fine linens to make bandages. We have received so many good things—in great excess of merely food and clothing—will we use those blessings and resources to bless others and redress the evil things in the lives of those less fortunate?

Martin Luther is reported in Table Talk 5677 to have said:

“Nobody can understand Vergil in his Bucolics and Georgics unless he has first been a shepherd or a farmer for five years.

“Nobody understands Cicero in his letters unless he has been engaged in public affairs of some consequence for twenty years.

“Let nobody suppose that he has tasted the Holy Scriptures sufficiently unless he has ruled over the churches with the prophets for a hundred years. Therefore there is something wonderful, first, about John the Baptist; second, about Christ; third, about the apostles. ‘Lay not your hand on this divine Aeneid, but bow before it, adore its every trace.’

“We are beggars. That is true.”

These were the last thoughts of Dr. Martin Luther on the day before he died.

God help us to affirm our connection with beggars. Help us linger with the truths of Jesus and Moses and the prophets. Help us trust in your mercy. Help us to have hearts and resources to bandage and feed the Lazari that we encounter—all to Your glory. Amen.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

e-vo for week of September 15

Dearest e-votees-

I hope and pray that this finds you well. This week’s gospel text is the unusual story of the dishonest or the shrewd manager (Luke 16:1-13). The manager who is being let go makes very questionable deals to ensure his future security—and Jesus lifts this up as some sort of example of what we are to do. Certainly your preacher this weekend will make this abundantly clear and edifying this weekend.

For our time I thought we would spend some time with the epistle reading from 1 Timothy.



1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, 6 who gave himself a ransom for all —this was attested at the right time. 7 For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

1 Timothy 2:1-7, NRSV

We live in a time and a culture where we view our leaders (“kings and all who are in high positions”) with a skeptical eye. We wonder if they have the best interest of “we the people” or if they are—truth be told—more like the dishonest/shrewd manager. These musings don’t come without some provocation and some justification. But I think we too quickly skip over the first verse of our appointed epistle lesson.

We are called to be people of prayer. We are called to lift up supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings for everyone. Those who are in Washington, D.C. or the synod office or City Hall or who lead the neighborhood association or work pulpits during worship or who sit on the school board or the behind the big desk in the corner office at work are all certainly part of “everyone”. If we look at the balance in our prayer lives what do we see? How often do we pray for those in leadership? Particularly how often do we faithfully lift up those in prayer those who have perhaps done wrong by us or by others? Can we pray fervently for those who seem to be akin to the dishonest/shrewd manager? Will we?

There is a hope that we might lead quiet and peaceable lives. There is hope that godliness and dignity might win the day. If this is to happen for us it starts with our hearts and our attitudes. We are saved through Jesus’ mediation—through the cross. As we bear our crosses we can be transformed into ones where dignity and godliness are being cultivated. Peace and quiet can come more and more to bear on our days in a world that is often anything but dignified or godly or peaceful or quiet.

To be sure there are times when we are called to engage the broken and misguided powers. Jesus drove the moneychangers out. Jesus called out the hypocrisy of some and engaged others to the point of causing scandal. As we grow up into Jesus we might find ourselves in these places too. We are called to be so much more than soft-spoken dupes who let the world trample us. There is still a place for advocacy and prophecy and rebuke. But those things come much better from hearts that are quiet and peaceful and godly and dignified.

God, shape our hearts and our prayers to be in forms that are pleasing to you. Help us live more fully into you. Help us engage the world well as we pray for and love all that we encounter. Stir us to be more like you—sacrificially loving and bringing healing and salvation into the world. Amen.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

e-vo for week of September 8

Dearest e-votees-

There is a Lutheran duo that is called Lost and Found ( I have experienced them live in concert many times (small concerts to national youth gatherings). I even have a slinky that is signed by them (you have to know the song Lions to understand that).

The name of this group shares something with our appointed gospel lesson for this Sunday—they both come from Luke 15.

During their stage chatter at concerts Lost and Found talk about Luke 15 being the lost chapter of Luke—lost sheep, lost coin and lost son. This week’s gospel text covers the first two of those.

May all of us rejoice that we have been found and be open to God working through us to help undo the lostness in our own lives and in the world.



1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to [Jesus]. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." 3 So he told them this parable: 4 "Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, "Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8 "Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, "Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

Luke 15:1-10, NRSV

Another artist I saw in concert lately (and expect will be around for a while) is Britt Nicole. She was just at Fishfest in Vancouver. Here is a link to an interesting video for her song The Lost Get Found. The trailing words of the song are:

So when you get the chance
Are you gonna take it?
There's a really big world at your fingertips
And you know you have the chance to change it

The reality is that we are a blend of saint and sinner. We are a blend of old Adam/Eve and new Adam/Eve. We are a blend of lost and found. We are a blend of the now and the not yet. We are who we are right now and we are who God is shaping us to be.

Sometimes we can get stuck worrying about the percentages. How much saint am I and how much sinner? I have always been intrigued by the ambigram by Mark Palmer that reads saint one way and sinner the other. You can see it on a shirt at Old Lutheran. I even know one pastor who has this pattern permanently tattooed on both of his hands to remind him. It is a UV tattoo, though, so it only shows up in black light. Not every good church going person is ready for a pastor with prominent tattoos. The point is that we are hopelessly intermingled saint and sinner. We will never know the percentages and we will never extract the sinner completely out of us. Fixating on that immobilizes us and betrays a lack of trust in God’s grace.

The good news is that Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them—even when it aggravates the Pharisees and the scribes. The good news is that Jesus welcomes us and eats with us. We are invited to the family table at communion. We are welcome not because our sinner/saint ratio is in check but because God loves us. God rejoices when any of us repent. We are that coin and that sheep and certainly that wandering son. But God welcomes us anyway. God throws a party. God runs down the driveway to meet us. God fetches the robe and the ring and the fatted calf. God saves us. God loves us.

We are now free from stressing over the ratio of devil to angel in our life. We are released to reach out to others (as in the Britt Nicole video). We don’t need to take a road trip. There is a whole world at our fingertips. And we have the chance to change it as God works through us. Will we dare to take the chances that come our way as we are stirred by the Holy Spirit?

God, help us to rejoice with You that we are found. Help us to embrace the lostness in ourselves and in the world around us. Nothing has strayed beyond the reach of Your redemptive and impassioned love. Help us be agents of Your redemption and Your passion in this world—all to Your glory.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

e-vo for week of September 1

Dearest e-votees-

Q: What does it cost to be a true disciple of Jesus?




25 Now large crowds were traveling with [Jesus]; and he turned and said to them, 26 "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' 31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”

Luke 14:25-33, NRSV

When I used to teach high school there were times that students would try to test the limits. They would push against boundaries and expectations to get a sense of what might happen if they kept moving in that direction. That was fine. That is part of the larval stage we call human adolescence. Some pushing was more playful some was a little more nasty in nature. My standard response that was sometimes more playful and sometimes not so much was “Don’t start something that you are not prepared to finish!”

What we start shapes where we are going. Sometimes we start things that can’t be unstarted. The world watches us to see what we might start and what we might finish. Our world thrives on ridiculing those who can’t finish well what they started. We take a little too much joy at eager but musically challenged contenders on American Idol. We spend a little too much time luxuriating in the flameouts and self-destructions of celebrities. We savor a little too much the scandals that ensnare prim and self-righteous preachers and politicians.

Jesus lays it out pretty plainly here. If we want to be Jesus’ disciples we need to give up everything. Our family relationships and the shape of our lives are dramatically impacted by the shadow of the cross on our lives. What we own and what we do with what we own are profoundly reallocated when the shadow of the cross falls over our portfolios. Our very lives are extracted from our control as the call of the cross comes to bear.

What does it cost to be a disciple of Jesus?


The real question is: “Are we mindful of who is calling us and what gives him the right to stake such a claim on us?”

Jesus knew what he was starting and how it would finish (at least in his mortal frame)—in the shape of the cross. Jesus was separated from his Father as he dangled dying on the cross. Jesus embraced the spectacle and the shame of the cross. He endured the ridiculing and the mocking of the Romans and religious leaders. Jesus had everything and spent it all to bring the message of the cross and the hope of the empty tomb to us.

Jesus started something in us in baptism. Jesus doesn’t start something that he is not prepared to finish. The grace and forgiveness found in the font stake a claim on our relationships. They stake a claim on our vocations and our avocations. They stake a claim on our stewardship. They stake a claim on the entirety of our persons.

We were bought with price. It cost Jesus everything.

God, teach us to give all of ourselves to you. You have good and gracious plans. Help us to grow into those plans—all to your glory. Amen.