Tuesday, August 30, 2011

e-vo for week of August 31

Dearest e-votees-

We live in a world that is bombarded with messages--from TV, Twitter, billboards, radio, podcasts, signs being wiggled at the side of the road, pundits, hawkers, magazines, movies, music videos, books, bumper stickers, tattoos, etc., etc.--the amount of information that assaults our senses is staggering.

We have a message that the world and we so desperately need to engage. Will we share it? Will we engage it? Will we live it?



7 So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, "O wicked ones, you shall surely die," and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. 9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life. 10 Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: "Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?" 11 Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Ezekiel 33:7-11, NRSV

This verse talks about the accountability of the messenger first and the message second.

For the purposes of this devotion I would like to take them in reverse order.

The Message:

The Lord says I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live...

God doesn't take pleasure in the death of those who are wicked. It isn't necessarily clear if the death is merely a physical death or if perhaps it is referring to a broader and deeper death. Regardless, the point is that God doesn't take pleasure in the death--whatever sort--of those who are wicked. God would prefer that they would repent and live. We and others who are wicked don't return to God under our own strength and effort. God can and does work repentance in us. God takes pleasure in amended lives and repentant ways. The message that we and the world needs to engage is that God wants us to turn and live--and that God will help us do just that.

The Accountability:

But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life.

The message we have--offering God's love and assistance in repenting--needs to be heard. If we do not speak this message to the wicked--to us and to the world--then we share culpability in the death. If we do speak this message our lives will be saved. Perhaps our lives will be saved because in speaking this message of God's love and desire for repentance we will hear it again and again and again. We will live because we will be immersed in the message of God's love. We will live because we will be immersed in God's call to repentance. We will live because in the speaking comes the hearing comes the hope comes the faith.

God, you take no pleasure in the death of those trapped in wickedness. You take joy in life. Help us delight you by coming to life through your love and through the repentance you enable and you desire. Help us delight you by sharing that hopeful message to a world so desperately seeking hope. Be glorified and draw us all into your life. Amen.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

e-vo for week of August 24

Dearest e-votees-

One of the things we do is let Christ interpret scripture and let scripture interpret Christ for us. Our assigned epistle from Romans for this coming Sunday speaks so clearly about what Jesus was about during his ministry.

The term Christian (first used in Antioch; see Acts 11:26) is a way to speak of follower of Jesus as “little Christs” (as Luther said). If we are to be like Jesus then perhaps we ought to spend some time immersing ourselves in verses that so clearly speak of him. Perhaps they will speak to us this day, too.



9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21, NRSV

There are several strands in these verses:
+ abiding love
+ persevering faith
+ immersive relationships
+ blessing those who are against you
+ overcoming evil with good


The world has so corrupted love. God comes into the world motivated by and in order to show God’s love. The Greek word in verse 10 is “philadelphia”. The call is to practice love as towards a brother or a sister. Jesus came into the world to love and to love back into the family of God. We are called to love those we encounter—to be genuine, to hold onto that which is good, to hate the evil distortions of God’s love, to excel in showing honor to others.


We live in a 140 character feed, 30 second sound-bite, 15 minutes of fame kind of world. Our hopes are raised and dashed so easily. We cower from suffering. We pray in such fleeting ways. The garden of Gethsemane, the cross, the lingering of 3 years of ministry, the lingering love of a father whose son is off squandering the inheritance and so many other places show us a different way. We are in such need of rehabilitation into a faith that persists, that perseveres, that will not be shaken by the trials and tribulations of this fickle and hostile world.


Jesus came into the world to dwell with us. He offered hospitality and welcome to the strangers and outcasts—sinners, lepers, tax collectors, adulteresses, zealots, demon-possessed, tormented, neglected, cast-off and anyone else who might need a touch of healing and love. He wept with the grieving, celebrated with the joyful, hurt with the wounded, ate and dined with the hungry and thirsty. Jesus entered fully into our humanity and fully entered into relationships with humans. He was not haughty. He associated with the lowly. He lived in harmony with those who would allow that to happen.


God showed us through Jesus’ prayers from the cross a different way to respond to hurt, persecution and pain. Jesus was able to pray for forgiveness for those who nailed him to the tree. Jesus offered restoration to Peter who so quickly forgot his vows to follow Jesus even unto death. Jesus left room for God to do what God would but in the mean time loved his enemies. Judas was fed and had his feet washed at the Last Supper. Perhaps we can learn something from the gracious love of a mistreated God.


Jesus would not allow a base response to be teased out of him. His love, his faith, his goodness and his innocent suffering showed the world a different way. Mark 15:39 has what seems to be a deep confession of faith coming out of a very unlikely source (even more so when John Wayne speaks it). Would that be our confession too and that it would inspire us to overcome evil with good as well.

God, shape us into the form of little Christs. Help us abide in your love, persevere in faith, enter into authentic and life-giving relationships, bless those who set upon us and overcome evil with good—all to your glory. Send others into our lives to show us these ways. Amen.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

e-vo for week of August 17

Dearest e-votees-

This week we will look at the assigned epistle text for this Sunday from Romans 12.

There is a call upon us to offer ourselves to God, to let God shape us, to step into the places of service for which God has gifted us with humility and sober judgment.

May we all be aware of the many blessings we have received and be a source of blessing and healing in the world.



1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Romans 12:1-8, NRSV

Have you ever fallen asleep on something with texture—a quilt, thermal top, cushion with a crease—only to awake and have that impression residing on your face? You weren’t doing much at all; you weren’t making any conscious decisions; your weren’t bothering anybody—yet you took on the shape of the things around you. Our lives can be like those face-shaping catnaps. We aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary. We aren’t aware of making any conscious decisions. We are just trying to make our way and not bother those around us. And as we make our way—almost sleepwalking—we drowse off. The next thing you know the world has left its mark on us. Our words or our thoughts or our reactions have taken a shape we never intended.

God wants us to not be shaped by the world. God wants to shape us. God wants to shape our thoughts and our reactions and our words. God wants to renew our minds. God wants to transform our hearts. God wants us to grow into God’s will which is good and acceptable and perfect.

God has created each of us with gifts and abilities which all come through God’s grace. Whatever those gifts God wants us to unwrap them. God wants us to engage them and let them engage us in service in the world. We aren’t to take license and pride in what has come to us purely through the hand of a gracious God. We ought to engage the service that God has put before us with humility and sober judgment. But better to sin boldly than to drowse off again.

As we grow into serving with the gifts that God has given us we will find deep and abiding joy. We will find ourselves awake and alert and making and impression on a sleeping world. May we all serve diligently this day making impressions for God and celebrating the gifts and services of others also fashioned in God’s image and serving through God-given gifts. This isn’t only a better path, it is spiritual worship. It sustains us; blesses God; helps heal the world.

God, shape us this day. Wake us from our sleepy world-dwelling and stir us to grow in serving in the gifts you have showered into our lives. Help us know your will and have the courageous faith to live into it—all to your glory. Amen.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

e-vo for week of August 10

Dearest e-votees-

I will be out of town next week when this would normally be sent out so here it is.

I hope and pray that you have a blessed day.



1 Thus says the Lord: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.

[2 Happy is the mortal who does this, the one who holds it fast, who keeps the sabbath, not profaning it, and refrains from doing any evil. 3 Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say, "The Lord will surely separate me from his people"; and do not let the eunuch say, "I am just a dry tree." 4 For thus says the Lord: To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, 5 I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.]

6 And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant— 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. 8 Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.

Isaiah 56:1 [2-5] 6-8

Our appointed text from the Old Testament for the ninth Sunday after Pentecost is above [with the excised verses restored for context].

One of most profound ministry moments I have experienced was when we were in Haiti helping to build a combination school and church building out of cinderblock. The downstairs was a multiple room school. The upstairs was a sanctuary and a smaller office. What was so stunning to me was that there was a lip surrounding the 2nd story. It was essentially a balcony with no railing encircling the building. Someone asked why that was built. The answer was that there are people who don’t feel worthy to come to church. If the lip was built, however, some would come and stand on the fringes. The hope and intent was that those people would be beckoned and welcomed into the community. Now, granted, I would have preferred a greased ramp going into a church (think of a trap-door spider with much more loving intentions) but I was struck by the architectural hospitality.

There are all sorts of examples of Jesus reaching out to those on the fringes—lepers, tax collectors, Samaritans, ill, demon-possessed, etc. The great commission is for the followers of Jesus to go out into all of the world making disciples. Our buildings and our ministries should have lips and balconies and welcoming areas for all who might come but be a little tentative. Our meals and our sanctuaries should always have open and well-equipped places for those who might come—think of the place setting for Elijah at a Seder meal. Our posture should surely be extending a hand of welcome over and against a judgmental wagging finger of accusation.

The early church grew through the Holy Spirit stirring the early church to live as a loving community. That love and care was winsome and won many to Christ. I am convinced that the Holy Spirit can, will, does and wants to so much more work that way today in our modern expressions of faith communities. There are outcasts, lepers, misfit toys, tax collectors, socially inept, Samaritans, unkempt, ill, lonely, demon-possessed, hurting people all around. Some are very apparent; many carry these traits buried deep within. All are needing places of welcome, good news and acceptance. God does that through people—people like you and me.

God, stir us to seek ways to reach out and welcome those who are lost and lonely on the fringes. Stir us to know your love for us—the lost and the lonely. Your amazing love trumps our failures and our feeble attempts to push you away. Gather us and all into your presence. Help us all to glorify you and be built up into an architecturally hospitable dwelling for your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

e-vo for week of August 3

Dearest e-votees-

This week’s appointed epistle lesson reminds us that we don’t get to bring God to us on our terms. God beckons us to come on God’s terms. Those terms are through the good news of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God.



5 Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that "the person who does these things will live by them." 6 But the righteousness that comes from faith says, "Do not say in your heart, "Who will ascend into heaven?' " (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 "or "Who will descend into the abyss?' " (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? "The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, "No one who believes in him will be put to shame." 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." 14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"

Romans 10:5-15, NRSV

We don’t earn our way to God. We don’t assert where our places is—in heaven or the abyss. We don’t get to summon God like a doting attendant on a cruise ship.

God comes into the world on God’s terms. God chose to come in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. None are saved by their lineage (physical or spiritual) nor by their understanding (wisdom, teaching, exploration). All are saved by the love of God which is so clearly revealed in Jesus. In believing in God we are justified. As we share the good news in confession, proclamation, exhortation we and those who hear are saved. When we believe in God we will never be put to shame. All can be saved—Jew, Greek, male, female, cradle Lutheran, skeptical fringe-dweller, your closest friends, the enemy you detest most profoundly…everyone. But the believing comes through hearing.

We gather at church so we can hear. We learn the stories and speak them to one another so we and others might hear. We go off to mission sites and give testimony so those who might not come can hear. We invite and chauffer so others can hear. We send people off to seminary and youth off on mission trips and hold Sunday school and Vacation Bible School so that all can learn to speak the good news. How beautiful are our feet when God sends us all to bring the good news.

God, please continue to send the good news into our lives. Help us be receptive and to have you come deeply into our lives in whatever ways you so choose. Bless our feet and our words and our actions that all might hear and believe and be saved. Amen.

e-vo for week of July 27

Dearest e-votees-

I had every intention of getting this out before I left for our mission trip to Las Vegas but time slipped through my fingers.

I hope and pray you are well and that these words are a blessing to you.



13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves." 16 Jesus said to them, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat." 17 They replied, "We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish." 18 And he said, "Bring them here to me." 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Matthew 14:13-21, NRSV

The appointed gospel for last Sunday is the familiar feeding of the 5,000 (plus women, plus children maybe more like 20,000). This miracle is unique in that it is the only one of Jesus’ that is recorded in all 4 gospel accounts. When there is a really good story it gets told again and again and again. What is it about this miracle that is so compelling?

Several things:

Jesus is shown in verse 14 to have compassion on the crowds. Literally in the Greek he was “stirred in the bowels”. If you have ever seen someone so sad or so needy or so destitute and your insides hurt you get the sense. Jesus isn’t willing to turn some 20,000 people away to fend for themselves. This is remarkable. It is even more remarkable when we recall that Jesus was trying to get some alone time to grieve the beheading of his cousin John—his forerunner—his baptizer—as some sort of bizarre party favor at King Herod’s birthday party. He had every right and need to be curled into a ball of self-care but Jesus was supremely interruptible and put his needs aside for the sake of the many.

The crowds needed food. All that we have on record was five loaves and two fish. John 6:9 lets us know that this food was a little boy’s provisions. Jesus didn’t let the lack win the day. He took what was available and provided what was needed. How often do we look at our own circumstances and bemoan the shortfalls? God can do remarkable things with small amounts. God speaks order into chaos. God calls into being that which is not. God multiplies and renews and restores and forgives. We look in the mirror and see the need. God looks at us with love and compassion and finds a way.

Elijah feeding the woman at Zarephath and the ravens feeding Elijah (1 Kings 17); Manna in the desert and miraculous waters at Meribah (Exodus 16), temple tax from the mouth of a fish (Matthew 17), clothing of the lilies of the field (Matthew 12), water into wine (John 2), etc., etc. God has throughout scripture made miraculous provision from meager portions. When there is a really good story it gets told again and again and again and again and… God knows our need. God provides. It is part of our corporate story. We can live and trust and lean into that deep truth.

Not only does God provide, God over-provides. Solomon asked for wisdom two Sundays ago and God showered him with blessings. After the 20,000 or so were feed there were still large amount of leftover. Jesus made something like 120-180 gallons of the choicest wine to bless the wedding at Cana. God grants not only our needs but God blesses us so much more richly than we ever deserve. We can’t nor shouldn’t treat God like a giant vending machine in the sky. We can trust however that God loves us and takes care of us more than we ever could imagine or deserve. If we, though we are evil, know how to give good gifts to our children… (see Luke 11:13)

God draw us into your love. Help us rest in your provision and over-provision. Help us lean hard into the stories of your people—our people. Help us know your compassion and grow in our capacity to bless the world with that same care. Amen.