Wednesday, November 30, 2011

e-vo for week of November 30

Dearest e-votees-

This time of year can be a hard time to wait and be patient.

For some the time of presents and celebrative music and joyous reunions make us giddy with anticipation. The days can’t pass fast enough until these times are upon us. And sometimes they pass all too quickly and we need to wait until the next occasion with all the joys and the celebrations that come with.

For some the holidays loom in a much more menacing way—hard economic times, insufficient wages, palpable empty places at the table or hard memories from tough holidays gone by. The days can’t pass fast enough until we are through these tough times. And then we will have a reprieve at least until the next occasion with its challenges and all of the expectations that come with.

For most of us we are in some hybrid place between these two extremes. We find ourselves waiting—sometimes joyfully, sometimes dreadfully—through these days of Advent. Our assigned epistle lesson for this coming second Sunday of Advent reminds us that God waits too.



8 But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed. 11 Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? 13 But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

14 Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,

2 Peter 3:8-15, NRSV

Have you ever had to wait on God? Perhaps you are seeking guidance about an opportunity or a perceived calling. Perhaps you are waiting to hear back on some lab results and the efficacy of your prayers for healing. Perhaps you are waiting for that baby to come. Or for your baby to come back home from deployment. Or for when you can leave this earth and go and be reunited with your baby. But instead of the instant gratification type of response we have been trained to expect in this world there is the need to wait. Perhaps God has a purpose in the waiting. Perhaps the waiting has little to do with God’s plans or God’s timing. Waiting can be a trial.

But Peter redirects us like a parent to a restless child—“Instead of pacing and complaining why don’t you…?” Instead of fixating on how slow or non-responsive we perceive God to be why don’t we do something? Why don’t we bide our time by striving to be at peace, by striving to be without spot or blemish? In order to do this with God we must return again and again to God’s work on the cross which was attached to us in baptism. Through Jesus we are reconciled to God and made at peace. Through Jesus we are made pure and clean. In order to do this with neighbors we must grow, with God’s help, in being peace-loving and forgiving and long-suffering and gracious with others. We must grow, with God’s help, in loving our neighbors as we ourselves would be loved. As we grow in this way the spots and blemishes that mar our community and blur our image of our neighbors fade.

As we wait, sometimes patiently, sometimes not so much so, we can grow in regarding God’s patience with us and our world as salvation—as a healing and life-giving act. This is as Paul writes and as Peter emphasizes and as the church teaches and as we are called to live.

Christ has come. Christ will come again. Thanks be to God.

God, help us wait in faith knowing your patience is bringing salvation more fully into this world. Bring your new heaven and earth in your time to your glory. Amen.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

e-vo for week of November 23

Dearest e-votees-

There are appointed texts in our lectionary not just for Sundays of the church year but also for appointed days commemorating saints, Holy Week and some other important days. There is a set of appointed texts for Day of Thanksgiving (U.S.A.) and we'll take a look at the gospel lesson for this week's e-vo.

May you be surrounded by family and friends and full of thankfulness during this extended holiday weekend.



11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" 14 When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" 19 Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."

Luke 17:11-19, NRSV

Jesus enters the scene. There are people who are cut off from community. They approach him (a very bold and faithful move on their part they were expected to keep their distance and cry out "Unclean! Unclean!" as a warning (see Leviticus 13:45)). They cry out for mercy and Jesus responds. He tells them to go and show themselves to the priest (the gateway back into the community) and on the way they are healed.

Only one returns to give thanks and praise. The one who returns is a Samaritan (who had yet another reason to keep his distance from Jesus). The other nine, presumably not foreigners, are never recorded to have returned.

Move to modern day:

Jesus enters the scene. There are people who are cut off from community--perhaps we are among them. Jesus comes and welcomes those who cry out to him wanting to restore them to community. Jesus folds us into community with God the Father (the vertical work of the cross) and Jesus folds us into community with our human brothers and sisters (the horizontal work of the cross). We would do well to learn lessons from the grateful Samaritan and Jesus’ reaction towards him.

May we be surrounded by family and friends. And if we spot any folks in need of welcome, inclusion, cleansing and restoration may we be like Jesus in our response. And if any of us are more like the lepers may we seek and receive Jesus' welcome into community with God and others. And may we be thankful.

God, our most honest words to you are "Unclean! Unclean!" and "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" Hear our cries and do what you do. And help us be more thankful and more like you. Amen.

ps- I have always found the art of Henry Martin intriguing and enchanting and whimsical. You might enjoy this powerpoint related to our text today:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

e-vo for week of November 16

Dearest e-votees-

We are coming to the end of the church year—Christ the King Sunday.

Our appointed gospel text is the pointed text of the sheep and the goats in the 25th chapter of Matthew.

May we have ears and hearts and eyes to discern what God would have us see.



31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:31-46, NRSV

One of the places to really give heed to words is when last words are being spoken. When we have seemingly unlimited upcoming visits the weather or the Green Bay Packers or the latest TV show might be appropriate conversational fodder. When we know that this exchange may well be the last (at least for a very long time) the words and the conversation take on a much more profound gravitas. These words in our appointed gospel lesson are the last teaching of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew. They are near the end of the gospel of Matthew as well--only the Passion, Resurrection and Great Commission accounts follow. Jesus knew his time was short and would not fill the void with idle chatter. He offers a powerful image of end times and what really matters. Do we have ears to hear?

A woman at my intern site, Gertrude, used to faithfully wear a button on her jacket which simply said:


People would ask about the button. Gertrude would tell them about “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” What a powerful witness.

What is so profound about this text is that no one, neither sheep nor goat, recognizes the Son of Man in those they are helping or neglecting. They are oblivious. What about us? Are we any different?

All sorts of people will cross our paths this day. We may well not even notice them. I pray we do. If we do we certainly may not discern in them the presence of the Son of Man. I pray we do. This last teaching of Jesus ought to give us pause. God is calling us to offer care and love to these hungry, lonely, sick, naked, imprisoned, thirsty souls. It really, really matters to God. It should really, really matter to us too.

And for those of us this day who are needing sustenance, feeling disenfranchised, away from healthy places, exposed, trapped by circumstances and parched we need to know that we really, really matter to the Son of Man too. Jesus empathizes with us and longs for our care and comfort. We are not alone. May many sheep cross our paths this day.

God shape us by 25:40. Teach us to see you in all we encounter particularly those on the fringes of neglect, need and neighborhood. Shape us into sheep who hear the master’s voice in the cries for mercy and care. Amen.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

e-vo for week of November 9

Dearest e-votees-

I hope and pray that your commemoration of those saints who shaped you and went before you last week was good and blessed. This week our assigned epistle text talks directly to those of us who have not yet gone to be with Jesus about how we might wait faithfully.

May the words that follow be good and be a blessing to you as well.



5 1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! 4 But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; 5 for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. 6 So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; 7 for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, NRSV

People have been predicting the last day of the world frequently (and to date 100% incorrectly) for many, many years. Harold Camping’s multiple predictions of the end of the world, Heaven’s Gate and the accompanying suicides, for some it was the massive failure of computers due to the Y2K bug and many more doomsday scenarios have been lifted up to warn and terrify those gullible to such fears.

As our Thessalonians text tells us the day of the Lord will come suddenly and severely. None will escape the consequences and no one will know when it is coming.

So what are we to do?!? Live in fear and dread? Study the predictions and choose which of the end of the world scenarios is most likely to be so? Get drunk with fear and lurk in the nighttime corners hoping to get passed by? No!!!

We are saved. We are destined for salvation not wrath. Whether we are awake or asleep (a euphemism for death) we are alive in Christ. We need not hide in the dark. We need not try to numb and drown our fears in the night. God has chosen us. God’s choice is good and strong and irrevocable. We are saved.

Our time is best spent encouraging others. Are time is best spent building others up. We have faith and hope and love to protect us from any harm that might befall us as this temporary world passes away.

The next big end of the world prediction that is on people’s radar is from the Mayan calendar which seems to end in December 2012. So what are your plans for January 2013? What do you say to neighbors who grow anxious with possible global meltdowns and destruction? Do you scoff and sneer at others who seem to be so duped? Do you pour out encouragement and strive to edify? How do you answer the call to “love your neighbor”?

I have always been partial to the quote attributed to Luther. When asked what he would do if he knew the world was going to end tomorrow Luther is purported to have replied “I would plant a tree today.”

God is in control. God has saved us. God will do what God will do. The best things we can do is keep living faithfully doing what we do and let God—who is good and gracious and loving and forgiving—take care of the rest.

God, help us encourage and edify all those we can. Help us rest in your sheltering gifts of faith and hope and love. Whenever this world ends our new lives will continue with you. Thank you for never giving up on those you love. Help us know and live into that abiding and saving truth. Amen.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

e-vo for week of November 2

Dearest e-votees-

This coming Sunday is All Saints Sunday. It is a time when we remember people who have gone before us in the faith—particularly those who have died in the faith. May your commemoration of those who have helped shape you and shown you the way of faith be blessed. We have a deep and profound hope that we will be with those people again when God is most fully revealed.



1 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3 And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

1 John 3:1-3, NRSV

We have been born into God’s family. Through baptism we are made children of God and a sister or a brother of Jesus. We now have the privileges and the responsibilities of participating in the family affairs:

• Family gatherings such as worship, fellowship events and service opportunities
• Family meals such as communion, potlucks and dinner groups
• Family rituals such as baptisms, consecrations and blessings
• Family celebrations such as weddings, anniversaries and special days and seasons
• Family mourning and contrition such as funerals, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday

There are so many aspects to life as the family of God. Some of that life has been revealed clearly. Some has yet to come. What we do know is this that it is possible to be in a family yet absent oneself from the life and the events of the family. God wants so much more from us and for us. God is revealed in the life of the family. God will continue to be revealed as we press on towards the day when God is most fully revealed. Let us not get in the habit of forsaking to gather… (see Hebrews 10:25)

May all of us this day be blessed as we are drawn deeply into our baptismal family. May we offer the hope and joy and possibility of adoption into God’s family for all who are estranged, cut off and non-participatory. God’s love that calls us children of God doesn’t stop with us. God’s love that calls us children of God would work through us to offer that self-same call to all who would hear.

As we lean into these strong promises of God we are made pure. When you see white this Sunday at church be reminded that you are made pure and that you are being made pure. That should be pure joy to your eyes and your soul. Amen.

God, thank you so much for each and every saint who has shaped our lives and our walk with you. Bless them and us and those yet to come as you are about the work of gathering and purifying. Help us be agents of joy and hope in a world that can be so scattered and so very sullied. Amen.