Thursday, July 21, 2011

e-vo for week of July 22

Dearest e-votees-

The appointed text from the epistle to the church at Rome is a deep, rich text full of promise. Laden with the trinity and the abiding works they do that bring salving and saving.

May we be blessed as we linger in these truths this week.



26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:26-39, NRSV

There are times when our prayers—rote or spontaneous—run dry. We don’t know what should be the contents of our prayers. Or we know but have trouble mustering the faith that God cares or that God will act favorably upon that request. In short, words fail. The terminal diagnosis is spoken. The divorce papers are sealed and entered into the records of the courts. The needed job is snatched away or given to someone else in the interview process. We plain and simple don’t know how to pray or for what to pray. Rather than condemning us as faithless or weak or corrupt God—in the form of the Holy Spirit—comes and prays for us with sighs beyond what human words and minds can express. God does not forsake us.

There are times when forces—people and situations—rise up against us. We are hard pressed. We don’t know if we have the stamina to press on. Or we know but have trouble discerning if we are even in the right. We feel swamped and drowning. We feel besieged with a final winning blow at our expense moments away. We feel that maybe even the whole world is against us. We feel that maybe even God is against us. Rather than vanquishing us as faithless or weak or corrupt God—in the form of the Father—weighs in on our side. God says “this child is mine and I will give all I have—even my only begotten—that this one will not perish.” God does not forsake us.

There are times when separation—emotional and spiritual—from God seems huge and getting even more insurmountable. We are crushed by circumstance, persecution, lack of necessity and exposure to dangers. We take stock of our lives and decide that we are going to lose if we have not lost already. Our mortality, powers and principalities, where we are or where we will surely go, scope and size of challenges seem sure to pry us out of the loving hands of God. Rather than writing us off and dismissing us as faithless or weak or corrupt God—in the form of Jesus—says “It is finished.” and “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” What Jesus has done is sufficient once for all and we are grafted deeply into the trinity. The God who will not forsake us. Thanks be to God.

God, help us to live into these incredible and certain promises. Help us to bear witness to the world with these same life-giving assurances. You do not forsake us. Help us learn and live into not forsaking others for they are surely crafted in your image. Amen.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

e-vo for week of July 13

Dearest e-votees-

My apologies for this coming out late in the week. What can I say?—time at the beach with my kids and an awesome middle school/high school lock-in from Tuesday to Wednesday did a number on my regular rhythm.

The next few weeks are crazy busy too (but a good busy) with VBS, Film and Faith and a mission trip to Las Vegas. e-vos will come but might be a tad early or a touch late. Your patience during the next fortnight or so is greatly appreciated.



This week we will take a look at our appointed psalmody for our devotional focus:

11 Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. 12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. 13 For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. 14 O God, the insolent rise up against me; a band of ruffians seeks my life, and they do not set you before them. 15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. 16 Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant; save the child of your serving girl. 17 Show me a sign of your favor, so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame, because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Psalm 86:11-17

This psalm is attributed as a prayer of David.

He prays for guidance that he might walk in God’s ways. He prays for an undivided heart. As a king he has probably experienced firsthand those who follow half-heartedly or perhaps with even less allegiance. He wants to be more committed than that. Perhaps he has learned a thing or two about the heartbreak of illicit connections and allegiances through his destruction of Uriah and Uriah’s family as he summoned Bathsheba—leaving Uriah and an unnamed baby dead and surely many hearts deeply scarred in the process. He wants to serve God in a way that doesn’t leave such carnage in his wake.

David has known a thing or two about Sheol. Things that have come his way and things that he has directly invoked have left him in the pits, in the depths of the grave. But God has rescued David. In spite of his transgressions God has remained faithful and loyal. God’s heart is not divided. God brings to completion the good work God began at David’s anointing and even before. God is that way with us too. We wander and we transgress but God rescues us. In spite of our transgressions God remains faithful. God’s heart is not divided. God brings to completion the good work God began at our baptisms and even before. Thanks be to God. God is merciful and gracious. God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. God is faithful.

Others might rise up against us—others who do not set God before them—they may wish ill for us. We can pray for them. We can live lives in such a way that they see God’s life in us. We can live in such ways that God’s help and God’s comfort and God’s favor might testify to them. How is it we say in baptism again? (quoting Jesus): Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven. (see Matthew 5:16). It seems that David was foreshadowing these words of Jesus.

God, draw our hearts toward you. Help us grow in faithfulness to you as you are so assuredly faithful to us. Help us rest and trust and grow in you. Let others see you deeply at work in our lives—all to your glory. Amen.

Friday, July 8, 2011

e-vo for week of July 6

Dearest e-votees-

This week’s gospel text is the familiar one of the sower scattering seed far and wide and God bringing forth growth out of the various soils. The epistle text from Romans 8 is a powerful reminder of the great and sufficient work done by Jesus on our behalf. Our assigned psalm extols God’s provision; the bounty of God is lifted up. All of these are powerful texts and rich texts. Our assigned Old Testament lesson, from Isaiah, is no less so. We will use this text from Isaiah as our meditative focus for this week.



10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 12 For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

Isaiah 55:10-13, NRSV

This lesson ties in nicely with the psalm. God’s word is like snow and rain that water the earth and bring forth life. Seed is produced for the sower—nice tie-in with the gospel text—and bread for the eater. Those with the eyes and ears of faith can readily discern baptismal and communion imagery in the water and the bread.

God’s word sustains and feeds us.

God’s word brings life in us and through us.

All of creation, including us, are brought to a place of exultation and joy. The wounding thorns and briers shall be replaced by the cypress and the myrtle. Cyrpess is a type of evergreen and reminds us of abundant and verdant life. Myrtle is a flowering tree. God is present always bringing life. God is with us seasonally bringing beauty and joy. Both of these are reminders and signs that we will never be cut off.

We are promised and assured that God’s word will not enter our lives and the world without accomplishing the purpose for which God sent it. This is certainly true of God’s Word—the “Word”, Jesus. Jesus has done what is required and we are granted rich and abundant life—thanks be to God.

God, send your blessings—your word, your waters, your bread, every good and perfect gift—into our lives. Sustain us and grow us with them. Accomplish your purposes in us and through us by them. Send us to be a blessing. Thank you that you will not let us be cut off. Amen.