Wednesday, June 29, 2011

e-vo for week of June 29

Dearest e-votees-

The appointed gospel text for this coming weekend will be our devotional focus.

May your time on this holiday weekend be blessed. May be you be surrounded by family and friends. May your celebrations of freedom include gratitude for the freedom that has been won for us by Christ.



16 "But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 17 "We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.' 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, "He has a demon'; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, "Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."

25 At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30, NRSV

The keen observer will notice that our assigned text steps around vv. 20-24. Those are verses where Jesus proclaims judgment on some towns that did not repent. Interesting to ponder why that is excised from the reading. Is it because we aren’t so familiar with the Biblical cities and their circumstances? Perhaps. Is it because a judging Jesus makes us squirm? That’s certainly a possibility. Is it because we, like Thomas Jefferson, like to take scissors to the scriptures and keep what we like and discard that which seems off to us? Most assuredly. (The Jesus Seminar book The Five Gospels is in part dedicated to “Thomas Jefferson who took scissors and paste to the gospels”). It might do us well to spend some time lingering with Matthew 11:20-24.

There are two threads to this assigned text. The first portion talks about how this generation (which I would certainly count us among) never seems to be satisfied with the way that God comes into the world. We are like kids who are never satisfied with the other kids who won’t play as we want. If we want to dance, they want to mourn. If we cry, they play celebratory music. We are out of synch with one another. We are out of synch with God’s ways in the world. When John came prophetically and ascetically people dismissed him as demon-possessed. People wrote him off, locked him up and eventually dispatched him as a party favor. When Jesus came into the world incarnationally and relationally people dismissed him as a drunkard and a glutton. He was judged by the company he kept, the religious authorities and the civil authorities. People wrote up charges and accusatory signs, hung him up and eventually dispatched him as a nuisance. Yet both John and Jesus were faithfully living out their callings. Jesus would not stay dead. Neither will John. Neither will we. People will say what they will, do as they do and attempt to write off the truth of the gospel. Yet wisdom will be vindicated by her resurrection deeds.

In the second thread, Jesus prays for his childlike followers. They, and we, have been welcomed into the community between the Father and the Son. We have been adopted into the family. We are comforted from the burdens that weigh us down. There is gentleness and humility in our brother Jesus. In that divine family there is rest to be had for our souls. Jesus takes our heavy burdens and shares the yoke with us. There is kingdom work to be done and Jesus shoulders the burdens with us. Thanks be to God.

God, we thank you that you come into the world on your own terms. Draw us up into the good news proclaimed by John and by Jesus. Help us give our burdens to you and to serve you faithfully. We thank you for the many freedoms we have in this day and in this age and in this country. Help us lay them at the foot of the cross in profound and lingering adoration. Amen.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

e-vo for week of June 22

Dearest e-votees-

June 24 is the day set aside in the church calendar to commemorate the ministry of John the Baptist. As for all days in the church year there is set aside 4 readings including a reading from one of the psalms. For our devotional focus this week we will spend some time around the psalm reading that is appointed for this Friday.



1 I call upon you, O Lord; come quickly to me; give ear to my voice when I call to you. 2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice. 3 Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. 4 Do not turn my heart to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with those who work iniquity; do not let me eat of their delicacies. 5 Let the righteous strike me; let the faithful correct me. Never let the oil of the wicked anoint my head, for my prayer is continually against their wicked deeds. 6 When they are given over to those who shall condemn them, then they shall learn that my words were pleasant. 7 Like a rock that one breaks apart and shatters on the land, so shall their bones be strewn at the mouth of Sheol. 8 But my eyes are turned toward you, O God, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; do not leave me defenseless. 9 Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me, and from the snares of evildoers. 10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I alone escape.

Psalm 141, NRSV (attributed to David)

For those who are familiar with Holden Evening vespers you might recognize the source material for “Let My Prayers Rise Before You as Incense” in the words of this psalm.

For all of us we are offered to behold a deep prayer for deliverance and protection. One who is tempted and vulnerable and realizing that there are options and consequences cries out to God for guidance and strength. One who feels set upon prays for deliverance from those who seek to do harm—and prays that they will be trapped by their own snares. One who wants to do right but knows how easy it is to spill sin across the lips in terms of a wild tongue and how easy it is to let the delicacies of the wicked cross those same lips. From that same mouth—that can be at times contemptuous and at other times tempted—comes an earnest prayer for God’s intervention.

Perhaps these words are more than just a snapshot of prayer from thousands of years ago from a prayerful heart in more primitive times. Perhaps there are words and hopes and deep cries of a heart that resonate with us too.

Are we tempted and vulnerable? Are we feeling set up and in need of deliverance? Do we see traps or snares or pitfalls that just might consume us? Do we want to do right but know all too well the temptation to speak rash and ill-conceived words? Do we wish to live honorably but know all too well how tempting the banquets are that aren’t from God? Do we pray as does the psalmist? Or do we wish we would? Or do we have trouble eking out a prayer at all? God enters into our struggle with a word of hope and love.

The power of John’s ministry is mostly in that he points away from himself to Christ. He does what he is to do and fades to the background. We have work and ministries to do. Ministries and work that God has created and called us to tend. The Holy Spirit is alive and well in us to help us tend to that work—to tend to that ministry. And when we are done we don’t need to seek a “Well done, good and faithful servant”—we can trust that Jesus meant it when he said “It is finished.” Jesus has done what is required. We are invited to be part of the unfolding of what he has done. In this way we get to partner with John in pointing to Jesus. Thanks be to God.

God, stir us by your Holy Spirit to be people of prayer. Stir us by your Holy Spirit to be different and faithful and bold and daring and willing to give it all in the world for your sake—as did John the Baptist. Stir us by your Holy Spirit to be loving and faithful and attentive and willing to give it all for your sake—as did the woman anointing your feet with her tears. Stir us up by your Holy Spirit to be bold and loving and daring and faithful in order to communicate your good news to all who might hear—as did the early church and as the church has continued to do ever since. Amen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

e-vo for week of June 15

Dearest e-votees-

This coming Sunday is Holy Trinity Sunday. It is a Sunday set aside to emphasize the unique community found within Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is also a time where we can think about the community we are called to abide in and sustain as members of the body of Christ.



11 Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. 13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

2 Corinthians 13:11-13, NRSV

These are the closing words of the two part epistle to the church at Corinth. The Corinthian fellowship had its share of squabbles and disagreements and moral missteps. The parting admonitions were ones of peace, harmony and order. Affection is instructed and the words that so many churches speak as an invocation were written as a benediction to these saints.

We could take these words and try to live into them in our own strength. We could force ourselves to be gracious and loving; peaceable and agreeable, affectionate and orderly in order to merit God’s peace and God’s love. We could try—perhaps. But our efforts would not prove so very successful. We could easily get tired and jaded and to the point of feeling unappreciated. Even when our motives are at their best our old Adams and old Eves are right there inside struggling to twist things to his or her advantage. In our own power, effort, merit and struggle we will not live into the righteousness that we need and that God desires.

What we need is for God who is gracious and loving and merciful to show us how to be community. We need grace as shown by Jesus’ life, ministry, death on a cross and post-resurrection appearances that always start with “Peace, peace.” We need love as shown by God who pours out all that is available including God’s own Son in order for us to truly experience what love is meant to look like—deeply sacrificial, faithful and enduring agaph(ah-gah-pay) love. We need community and fellowship as shown by the indwelling Holy Spirit that comforts, guides, reminds, inspires and groans in intercessory prayers when our own words fail us.

In short, we need Paul’s benediction and our worship’s invocation as the starting point of every day, every moment, every venture and every new start. We need the blessings and presence and community of the Holy Trinity. As we are drawn into that community, grace and love will become more firmly rooted in our lives. As we are drawn into that community peace and concord—real peace and real concord—will come in sharp focus. As we are drawn into that community we won’t only kiss one another but seek to dress the wounds that happen on the road to Jericho and wash the feet of those who have been sullied by the world. As we are drawn into that community order—real order—will come into play that will remind us of God speaking order into the chaos before creation.

God, draw us into Your community. Help us love You with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength. As You work your ways in us we will truly learn how to love neighbor as ourselves—all to Your glory. Amen.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

e-vo for week of June 8

Dearest e-votees-

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. It is when God takes an existing religious/spiritual observance and layers a new depth and Godly presence—as was the case with Passover and Holy Communion.

There are lots of permutations of the assigned readings for this week. For our devotion I chose one that you may not hear read in church.

May the Holy Spirit blow through this devotion, our days and throughout the world—all to the glory of God.



24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again. 26 Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp." 28 And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, "My lord Moses, stop them!" 29 But Moses said to him, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!" 30 And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

Numbers 11:24-30, NRSV

Just before this assigned reading Moses is showing the stress of being the prophet/judge/arbiter/caretaker for all of the people. God instructs Moses to gather the people at the Tent of Meeting. The account of what happened next is one of the assigned texts for Pentecost Sunday.

God divides the spirit that is in Moses and apportions it to the 70 (notably to the 2 who didn’t get to the meeting as well) so that the work can be divided. This resonates, as well, with the time Jethro counseled Moses to divide up the work he was trying to bear on his own as is recorded in Exodus 18:13-27. The work of doing God’s will in the world is much too large for any one denomination or church—let alone for any one person. We are called to work together as a community to accomplish that which God has put before us. The promise of God’s abiding presence is particularly attached to when we gather in community (2 or 3 or more).

Moses’ response to Joshua is one we ought to commit to memory—“Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!” Moses’ desire has been enfleshed in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit fell on all who were gathered in the house for prayer that day. And they were enabled to speak and be heard in the tongues of all the gathered people. The Holy Spirit continued to spread through the work of the early church. The Holy Spirit is alive and well in the church today too. As God works through baptism the Holy Spirit is imparted. As God inspires deepening faith the Holy Spirit becomes more deeply rooted. As the church does the work to which we are called the Holy Spirit moves and breathes and has her being. I wouldn’t be too surprised to find that there are those who didn’t get to the “Tent of Meeting” (or maybe to worship or maybe to our denomination or maybe even in the “organized” church as we see her) who are still having the Holy Spirit come to rest on them and move in their lives. Do you think there are Eldads and Medads about this day? I do.

We should always keep in mind the exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus:

4 “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

John 3:4-8, NRSV

Holy Spirit, continue to move and breathe into our lives. Help us never hinder you but rejoice that you blow wherever you please. May it please you to blow fervently into us. Comfort us. Inspire us. Remind us of Jesus’ teaching. Empower us to give testimony wherever we find ourselves. Prophesy to and through us. Encourage us. Intercede for us when words fail. Help us partner well with the community that you have formed that breathes of your Holy Spirit as surely as it does the air around us. Amen.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

e-vo for week of June 1

Dearest e-votees-

Thursday of this week is the Day of Ascension. It is 40 days from Easter to Thursday counting partial days (in the same way that Friday to Sunday is “on the third day”). We will use one of the appointed texts for the Day of Ascension for our focus this week.

May we be blessed as we continue to abide in the good news of the empty tomb. May we take that good news and ways of blessing out into the world.




44 Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." 50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Luke 24:44-53, NRSV

You can find lots of references to the “law and the prophets” or “Moses and the prophets” in scripture. This threefold formulation of “law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms” is particular to this one verse in Luke. Luke, the one who carefully collects all the details for his two volume Luke-Acts account addressed to Theophilus (“lover of God”), reports this completion of the expectations of the law and the prophets and the psalms. Jesus opens the mind of the disciples and the two who had been on the road to Emmaus and reminds them of why he came and what the significance of his death and resurrection were. He equips them and sends them to be witnesses. He tells them to linger a bit longer in the city until they have been clothed with power from on high. In 10 short days (50 from Easter) the Holy Spirit will come with great flourish at Pentecost.

In Jesus we have the fulfillment of the requirements of the law. What we are unable to do Jesus does. Thanks be to God.

In Jesus we have the fulfillment of the revelations of the prophets. The dreams and visions and moral correctives of the prophets find their fulfillment in Jesus. Thanks be to God.

In Jesus we have the fulfillment of the psalms. The songs and prayers and longings and deep humanity of the psalms find their fulfillment in Jesus who was as truly human as he was truly God. Thanks be to God.

When we know our time on this earth is long our conversation drifts to lesser things—sports, weather, passing thoughts and idle chatter. When we are with one who is dying or when we know we are leaving for a good long while the conversation takes a decidedly different tone. Jesus knows where he is going and so speaks with gravitas before he defies gravity and leaves this world. He summarizes his life and ministry and tells the disciples, and us, to wait for power from on high and to be witnesses.

Jesus knows a thing or two about communication and body language. The image that he leaves is one of blessing. He could have chosen to point a threatening finger or two—particularly given the not so stellar performance of the disciples around the time of Holy Week. He could have done the “I’m watching you” gesture by pointing at his eyes and then his disciples letting them know that they were in deep trouble if they failed him again. He could have taken a more triumphant pose as he ascended. He chose none of these. But the one who came to serve and not to be served chose a posture of blessing. God’s move towards us is one of healing and restoration and blessings. God would have us be more like that with the world as well. Thanks be to God.

God, open Your holy scriptures to us. Help us see in Jesus the true fulfillment of the law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms. Stir us to be Your people and Your witnesses. Help us receive every good blessing from You that we might in turn go and bless the world in Jesus’ name. Amen.