Wednesday, December 26, 2012

e-vo for week of December 26

Dearest e-votees-

Blessings on your on-going celebration of Christmas.

Christ has come into the world. We are blessed when we remember this and live into this truth. The world is blessed when we remember to show this message and live in such a way that others are wooed into this truth.

Peace to you and yours. Have a blessed 2013.



12 As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:12-17, NRSV

These words to the Colossian church with just a little tweaking could be the words spoken within the Trinity as Jesus prepared for his earthly ministry:

As God’s chosen one, holy and beloved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with them and, if any needs forgiveness, grant it; you must forgive. Above all, clothe yourself with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let your peace remain in you and them, as they are called to be one body. And be thankful. Let your word dwell in them richly; teach and admonish them in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do in your name give thanks to God your Father.

Jesus came covered in attributes of care and long-suffering, humble service. He suffered fools and arrogance and returned grace and forgiveness. Jesus came as love bringing unity and reconciliation where we had sown hatred, discord and factions. Jesus comes bringing peace to a war-torn, combat-weary world. Jesus taught and lived thankfulness. His words are recorded to teach us and admonish us and grow us up into wisdom. And so, having been saved by love, we are drawn into the same sorts of works as Jesus. We sing praises and we give thanks to God for that high and holy calling.

We are chosen by God. God’s love is for us and for all. In baptism we are clothed in Christ and made holy. We are called along with the Colossians saints to put on the ways of Jesus. Letting forgiveness, love, thankfulness and joy win the day. This may take many shapes and forms as all of us have different bodily functions to which we have been called. But thankfully and with praise we are able to go about the tasks and ministries God has set before us. We do this in Jesus’ name and we thank God.

God, continue to draw us up into you. Help us to be shaped and reshaped by the deep truths and abundant life found in this Colossians text. All to your glory. Amen.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

e-vo for week of December 19

Dearest e-votees-

Blessings on you and yours as you draw near to celebrating Christmas. We rejoice that Jesus comes into the world to accomplish the will of God.

Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father who art in heaven, Thy will be done…” What exactly are we praying for when we pray the Lord’s Prayer? Our appointed epistle text for this Sunday perhaps sheds some light on that question.




5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, "See, God, I have come to do your will, O God' (in the scroll of the book it is written of me)." 8 When he said above, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, "See, I have come to do your will." He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. 10 And it is by God's will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:5-10, NRSV

According to the author of Hebrews Jesus came into the world to do God’s will. God’s will was not fully accomplished in sacrifices and sin offerings and burnt offerings. God had commanded such things in the Law given to Moses but the Law didn’t fully accomplish God’s purposes. Jesus came into the world and through his life, death and life again he abolishes the requirements of the Law. Some see the destruction in 70 AD and persistent non-reconstructing of the Temple as a sign that such sacrifices really have become a thing of the past. Jesus’ sacrifice an sin offering are sufficient and fulfill the forms established by the Law as given to Moses.

So what is God’s will for us? (which we pray for whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer) It is to be sanctified through Jesus’ offering once and for all. God wills that we are made clean and made holy by what Jesus did. God wills that we remain sanctified forever.

If we truly want to live out the Lord’s Prayer we will trust that God has saved us, made us clean and made us holy. We abide in God’s will when we trust. We are saved. We are made well. And so we rejoice. And that joy might beckon others to, with us, taste and see that the Lord is good.

Lord, teach us to continue to pray that Your will be done. Help us trust that you give us what you say—forgiveness, adoption and an abiding forever love.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

e-vo for week of December 12

Dearest e-votees-

On this 12th day of the 12th month of 2012 we have 12 days left until Christmas Eve (or still fewer days left of the world at all if you buy into the hype about the Mayan calendar).

How shall we be as we wait for Jesus to come to us again in the manger or as we wait for Jesus to come to us anew at the end of the world as we know it?



2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. 3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. 5 Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. 6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 12:2-6, NRSV

Our appointed Old Testament text for this coming Sunday has some insights into how we might be during this time for waiting.

1. Fearlessly trusting in the salvation from the Lord God
2. Joyfully drinking in salvation of our Lord God
3. Thankfully making our Lord God’s deeds known
4. Musically praising the glories of our Lord God
5. Enthusiastically extolling the Lord God

We are saved. God has done this. We could not do it. Even if we could we could not do it reliably. If our salvation rested on our shoulders we would have every reason to be fearful. If we were in this world without God we would have good reason to be afraid. We are saved by grace, accepted by faith, through the work, life, ministry, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Jesus’ promises of salvation and deliverance are sure. Therefore we are sure and free from fear.

We are saved by the promises attached to the waters of baptism. Our spiritual thirsts and our parched souls are slaked by the living waters that are our Lord Jesus. It is cause for great joy that we have been saved. We can daily revisit the waters of our baptism and drink from the well of salvation. We are free to approach and be made new. We are called to bring others to these waters as well. We are called to invite others to “Drink and see that the Lord is good.” We are called to beckon them to rejoice with us.

We are witnesses to the deeds that the Lord has done. We are not to grudgingly hoard the goodness that the Lord has done but rather to thankfully share that good news with all. We are called to evangelize (to “good news”) people about what God has done. We are to be thankful in spite of the challenges that have beset us. We are to be thankful in a world that cultivates envy and dissatisfaction. We are to be thankful and call on the Lord God’s name. We are to be thankful to Jesus and proclaim his name.

With music and voice we are to praise the Lord God. Our praising transcends purely the spoken and written word. With rhythm and notes, harmony and crescendo we remember how the Lord God has treated us gloriously even when we treated him with shame and scorn. God’s glory trumps our tragedy. God’s love trumps our contempt. And so we sing and praise and glorify and exalt so all the earth--neighbor, enemy, those far away, creatures, plants and all others--might be aware of our praises to the Lord God.

With shouts and joyful song we extol the Lord God. More than writhing, adoring crowds in the largest of athletic venues we proclaim the greatness of our Lord. Overwhelming the stadia full of lighters and cell phones paying homage to earthly idols we let our lights so shine before humanity that our good works might be seen and glory given to God. With all that we are and have we pour ourselves into extolling the Lord God. The Lord of our salvation.

God, we wait for Jesus to be born again. Draw us to that silent night. We wait for Jesus to come again. Temper our fears, renew and inspire our faiths and receive our praise. Amen.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

e-vo for week of December 5

Dearest e-votees-

Advent is a time of gathering and waiting trusting that God will make good on the promises God has made.

Our appointed lesson from the New Testament this week, Philippians 1:3-11, is a powerful reminder of how we can gather as community, partner in the gospel, trust in the Lord and patiently wait until the day of Jesus Christ.



3 I thank my God every time I remember you, 4 constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5 because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 1:3-11, NRSV

There are really two strands of Advent.

We wait for God to bring Jesus into the world in the manger in our liturgical cycle. The essence of the gospel is that God comes into the world to restore a broken relationship with creation and to bring salvation. God longs for us with compassion. God does whatever is required. God comes into the world as a frail and susceptible mortal. This is a profound saving move of God. It is so important that commemorate this time-splitting event every year. In order to best commemorate it we slow down and take time to recall the promises that are coming into being in Jesus. This is a deep and important strand of Advent.

We wait, too, for Jesus to usher in the end of all times. The essence of the gospel is that God who began this good work of salvation will bring it to completion. It is God who does the work—not us—which is how we can rest secure. God longs for us with compassion. God continues to do whatever is required. God is coming back into the world to save us frail and susceptible mortals. This is the most profound saving move of God. It is so important that we ritually wait for this time ending event every year. In order to fully appreciate this coming fulfillment we slow down and take time to recall the promises that will be fulfilled in Jesus. This, too, is a deep and important strand of Advent.

We wait collectively. We partner in the gospel. We gather and pray and sing and trust. We know that God began this good work in creation. We know that God began this good work of salvation in Jesus Christ and the incarnation. We know that God will bring this work to completion in the day of Jesus Christ. This is God’s plan. This is our hope. Thanks be to God.

God shape us as we wait. Help us receive Jesus in the manger again and prepare to be received by Jesus at the end of all time. Help us be thankful and faithful in the meantime. Amen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

e-vo for week of November 28

Dearest e-votees-

Happy New Year! This Sunday is the first of our new liturgical year. We begin our lingering trip to the manger. While the world is already starting to tire of Christmas refrains and Salvation Army bells and manic shopping we begin to turn our eyes to our coming Lord. Jesus coming again in the manger in four weeks and Jesus coming once and for all in who knows who many months or weeks or days or moments?



25 "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see "the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." 29 Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 34 "Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."

Luke 21:25-36, NRSV

There are so many things that can worry us and capture our attention. Jesus talks about not being weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life.

A look on Merriam Webster’s on-line dictionary ( gives the following as synonyms for dissipation: abjection, corruptness, debasement, debauchery, decadence, decadency, degeneracy, degenerateness, degeneration, degradation, demoralization, depravity, dissipatedness, corruption, dissoluteness, libertinage, libertinism, perversion, pervertedness, rakishness, turpitude. How easy it is to fall into such practices in a culture with little focus and more wealth than we know what to do with. And with the wealth of cable channels available with which we can voyeuristically engage in such dissipation as well. Our time, our minds and our souls can be drawn into the tawdry, the obscene and a pointless. This can weigh us down.

Drunkenness is how so many chose to self-medicate and escape the pains of this life. Through drink and other escapist endeavors the world falls away. But so to does the reality in which God has called us to live. Families and careers and physical well-beings are drowned along with ones sorrows. The cycles and pains and expenses of chemical abuse can and do weigh us and those we love down.

This world is full of uncertainties. There are so many things that could happen—so many more than actually do. The demons exploit that fact when drawing people into worry in The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Fretting about what might come to pass can rob us blind of the joys immediately before our eyes. As Jesus says “People will faint from fear and foreboding”—there is much that can captivate and terrorize our souls. Those constant worries can steal our sanities, corrupt our health and smother our joy. This can be a crushing blow.

But Jesus encourages us to remember that the day of his return is coming. Heaven and earth will indeed pass away but his promise to return will not pass away until it comes to pass.

May we find ways to encourage one another to shun the vain amusements of this world, to keep sober and to not let worry steal our hope. We don’t find these on our own. Through prayer and God’s empowering we, as community, are and will be able to stand before the Son of Man. Thanks be to God.

Jesus, give us eyes to see, hearts to endure, minds to discern and steely spines to stand—all to your glory. Amen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

e-vo for week of November 21

Dearest e-votees-

Have a blessed time of Thanksgiving with friends and family.



33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" 34 Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?" 35 Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" 36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." 37 Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."

John 18:33-37, NRSV

This coming Sunday is the last of the church year. The year ends with the world and how it understands power and authority colliding with Jesus and how he exercises power and authority.

In a few short chapters of John Jesus will be exalted on the cross. Jesus wins by losing. Jesus triumphs by being crushed. Jesus attains what we could not by giving away what we would not.

Pilate can’t wrap his head nor his heart around the way in which Jesus chooses to rule the world—love, sacrifice and submission.

Jesus speaks truth. A truth that Pilate can’t comprehend. A truth the world opts to silence in exchange for Barabbas. A truth that can get lost in the jingle and jangle of the holidays and the merchants selling their wares. A truth that our unredeemed selves has little to no time for.

Yet Jesus speaks the truth. And even more Jesus is the truth. This truth won’t stay silent. This truth won’t stay dead. This truth bears a royal and saving message to all who would hear. God redeems us and redeems all that we might hear and listen and change.

God, have your way with us. Help us follow your way and be your way in the world. Your Kingdom come. Amen.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

e-vo for week of November 14

Dearest e-votees-

I will be about as far away (mentally and physically) from being able to post an e-vo next week as possible as I float about the Mexican Riviera with my newly betrothed so here is the e-vo for the week of November 14th.

Blessings to you and yours.



11 And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, "he sat down at the right hand of God," 13 and since then has been waiting "until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet." 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

[15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, 16 "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds," 17 he also adds, "I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more." 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.]

19 Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:11-14 [15-18] 19-25, NRSV

In this text Jesus’ flesh is connected with the curtain (the separation in the Tabernacle between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place—see Exodus 26:31-34). In the Temple there was also a curtain which separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. That curtain was torn, top to bottom, when Jesus died—see Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45b. As Jesus’ life was torn from him the separation between where God was thought to dwell and the rest of the world was torn apart. Humanity has been granted access to God—or, as Peter Mayer sings, God is Loose in the World.

God has spilled into the world and into our lives. We have been cleansed and washed. Jesus has promised to save us. Jesus has promised to hear us. Jesus has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. Jesus has promised to go and prepare a place for us and return and to take us to be with him. When Jesus pours gracious promises into our lives they will come to pass. Our eternity is secure. Our eternal life has begun. Jesus will bring all of his good and gracious promises to bear fully on that Day.

So what is left for us to do in the meantime? We can provoke one another to love and good deeds. We don’t do this to secure our salvations—that was tended already by Jesus. We respond to that good news by allowing God to bring love to bear in the world through us. We respond to that good news by allowing God to bring good works to bear in the world through us. This happens as we meet together with other believers and with God and allow that promised presence when 2 or 3 are gathered in Jesus’ name to stir us. We gather that we might praise God and find encouragement. We gather that God might set us loose in the world.

Dear God, you have torn down every barrier between us and you. You have poured love into this world. You have saved us. Help us live in ways that bring your love and salvation to all who need it. Amen.

e-vo for week of November 7

Dearest e-votees-

I have been struck recently by the great excess of wealth that some in our culture have. Donald Trump offered $5 million to the charity of President Obama’s choice if Mr. Obama would produce copies of his birth certificate, passport and associated records. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, in response offered $1 million to the charity of Donald Trump’s choice if Mr. Trump would shave his head. It seems that some people have way too much in the way of disposable income.

So many of us have so very much more than we need. We may seem strapped with the current economy but the truth is we still manage to get by with a roof over our heads, food on the table and some money on the side for discretionary spending. We have so much more than the vast majority of the residents of this world.

It is stunning, humbling and instructive to draw near to a woman in scripture who has so very little but is willing to give it freely to God. What do you suppose motivates her to be so generous and reckless with that which God has given her?



38 As [Jesus] taught, he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40 They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation." 41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."

Mark 12:38-44, NRSV

Mr. Trump’s and Mr. Cuban’s offers were for the sake of appearances. They are akin to those who say long prayers that others might notice. They are akin to folks who make generous donations with the hope of having their name and their generosity well regarded. They are, at the very least, misguided.

What motivates us to give to God? That is really the crux of the matter. Are we giving to curry favor with God? – won’t happen. There is nothing we can do, financially or otherwise, that can make God love us more. Are we giving to curry favor with those who count and watch and compare? – might happen but it is neither good nor healthy. Our gifts – be they prayer or currency or anything else – are really meant to be between us and God. If we give for the sake of the reward of being well-regarded or outgiving others or somehow meriting God’s best attentions we will be sorely disappointed.

It may be the case that we are called on to pray before others. It may be the case that others ask us about our stewardship practices. It may be that others inquire about the things that are between us and God. It can be good and fruitful to engage others and share we just need to be diligent in keeping our motivations in check. Sometimes we learn best how to pray by being around others familiar with the ways of prayer. Sometimes we learn best about how to give by being around those who live in ways that demonstrate sacrificial giving. Imagine if Jesus and the disciples hadn’t been watching the woman giving everything she had into the treasury. God may want to use us as examples in the lives of others.

Things aren’t always as they appear. Those who seem to be contributing and participating in the most cursory fashions may be the most faithful givers of all. Our job isn’t to worry about if others are watching us or not. Our task is to contribute and participate as fully as possible in the work that God has put before us and our community. As we focus in that direction we need not fret about the greater condemnation.

God, help us not be motivated by appearances but rather by your deep, abiding, saving love for us. Stir us to bless others for your name’s sake with our gifts and offerings. Help us never turn our focus from you and the work that you have put before us. Amen.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

e-vo for week of All Saints Day

Dearest e-votees-

Blessings to you on this All Saints Day.

[was sent out/posted 11-1-2012]
You have been set aside by God for God’s purposes. You are a saint.

You are not working on your own. God has set aside a great cloud of witnesses for God’s purposes. You are seeded into that great cloud of witnesses.

There are promises attached to you that are coming true and that will come true. God has set you and all of the saints that have preceded us and will come after us aside to bear fruit and to be resurrected.

In this interim time be free and be about God’s purposes.



32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
John 11:32-44, NRSV

God enters into our pain-stained world. God comes close. Jesus came to Martha (before this lesson) and Jesus comes to Mary above. Both offer the same response-“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (Martha in verse 21; Mary in verse 32). It is a statement of faith laced in an accusation. Where were you Jesus? Don’t you care? How could you let this happen?

Jesus draws near the tomb. Martha warns Jesus about the stench of death. Jesus does what he does—he gives life. Lazarus is restored to life. He is made free. He is sent out to be about God’s purposes.

The truth of the matter is that we are like Lazarus. We have been made free and unbound. We are let go and let loose to do God’s work. As the gospel continues to plots against Jesus expand to include Lazarus too (see 12:10). Jesus’ work of giving life threatens many. In the end they dispatch Jesus to put down this perceived nonsense. But the wisdom of the cross trumps the vain plots of humanity. Jesus comes back to life. Not like Lazarus who died again. Jesus comes back to life and will not die again.

We are all like Lazarus. We have been set free and let loose but mortality is still part of our journey. We will die. Perhaps in response to what Jesus has done for us and through us. Perhaps in a heroic moment. Perhaps hurting and alone. Perhaps in a lingering and painful way. We don’t know how many days we have and what those last moments will be like.

We do know that God, Jesus, has set us aside. That God, Jesus, has made promises about eternal life that began with him and end with all whom God chooses. We have been elected. We have been made saints. We have been made part of that great cloud of witnesses. Romans 14:8 reminds us that whether we live or whether we die we are the Lord’s.

God, send us into our pain-stained world. Help us draw close to others. Help us speak life in the face of death and healing in the face of contagions that plague us. Help us never forget your calling and your example. And, at the last, deliver us into your presence as your promises assure. Amen.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

e-vo for week of October 24

Dearest e-votees-

Please pardon the break in devotional continuity. Last week was a little crazy what with ending a call, getting ready to start a new call and moving all of the truckworthy items into storage or my soon-to-be new home. I am now getting settled into my new office and will be preaching regularly from the lectionary—woo hoo!!!



31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

34 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

John 8:31-36, NRSV

One of the powers of music is in its ability to come flooding back into one’s mind with tune, lyrics and associated memories with the smallest of provocations. Whenever I hear the words of Jesus in this Sunday’s appointed gospel text I am drawn to the song by Stephen Curtis Chapman: Free. And obviously whenever I hear the song I am drawn back to this gospel text.
(live concert song clip, Detroit, 9-19-10)

Jesus came into the world to rescue us. Jesus came to speak a word into our lives. Jesus came to be the Word in our world and in our lives. He invites us to follow after him as disciples. As we grow into the words and ways of Jesus we are made free.

Our human reaction is so often one of disdain: I’m not a prisoner! I’m not a slave! I don’t need your stinking freedom.

Jesus speaks truth saying that everyone who commits a sin (that would be everyone) is a slave to sin (or “in bondage to sin” as we used to so regularly confess). And we cannot free ourselves. So Jesus comes into our world and into our lives bearing freedom. Jesus makes us free indeed.

It may be the case that we still must dwell in prisons of our own making or our own deserving. The prisoner in the song doesn’t walk out with Stephen Curtis Chapman. Some of our tragic choices and irrevocable failures will have some sway on us until we die. Jesus’ gift of freedom is not some sort of magical “Get out of jail free” card that wipes away all pain, suffering and consequence. But our hearts and lives are shaped so that we can sing of freedom while we wait for Jesus’ promises to bring their full and glorious consequence.

At the tail end of the video Stephen Curtis Chapman asks if there is anyone who can say that Jesus has set them free. Can you say that? I can. I hope and pray you can too—all to God’s glory.

God, as we gather for worship this Sunday for Reformation Sunday help us rest in the glorious freedom that you have won for us. Re-form our hearts, minds and souls that we might truly live into the freedom only you can give us. And give us songs to sing that all who might need to hear (that would be everyone) would. Amen.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

e-vo for week of October 10

Dear e-votees-

I’ve always been struck by churches with names like “First Lutheran Church” or “Third Baptist Church” .  Does it really matter in the grand scheme of things when in the pecking order the church got established?  It seems to me like the better measures of a church would be:  Are the people growing in their faith?  Is the gospel preached well and in a compelling fashion to those who hear?  Are lives within and without the congregation being positively affected?  Are disciples being challenged and shaped?  Are the lonely and grieving and cutoff being brought into community?

For years I have been tempted to start a mission plant congregation somewhere and call it Last Lutheran church.  It would provoke conversation.  It would be easy to find as there are probably much fewer “Last Lutheran”s as compared to “First Lutheran”s.  More importantly it would in a playful way keep our eyes fixed on the assigned gospel text for this weekend:  Mark 10:17-31.

A word to RLC members who have been receiving e-vos:  As I complete this call at Resurrection on October 14 I will be culling RLC members from the distribution list.  This is the last Wednesday that I will be sending an e-vo to you.   It is important to make the cleanest and healthiest break possible when a pastor leaves so that all can move on to the next season to which God is leading them.  It has been a joy to serve as one of your pastors.  Godspeed as you press into the next steps of your long, storied and faithful journey.




17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’ ” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

28 Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

Mark 10:17-31, NRSV

We fall prey to the desire to justify ourselves and our ways.  The man in our gospel runs up and asks what is required of him to enter eternal life.  Jesus reminds him of the need to live by the commandments.  It is interesting to note that Jesus only makes mention of commandments from the second table of the law—the commandments that pertain to relationships between people.  The man asserts that he has kept all of these commandments since his youth.  Jesus looks at him, loves him and challenges him—one more thing is required:  sell your possessions and give the money to the poor.  This was enough to turn back the zeal of the wealthy man.

Jesus then says to those who might hear how hard it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God.  This ought to catch our ears.  From what I know of who reads these e-vos we are a pretty wealthy lot.  We have possessions and comforts that were unimaginable to many just  a few decades ago.   Many of us carry around devices of remarkable ability and convenience with us throughout the day.  While much of the world subsists on $1-$2 / day some of us spend large multiples of that on our existence, our comfort and our entertainment.  Jesus could easily look at us, love us and give us the same challenge—to sell all we have and give it away to free us up to follow after Jesus.

Or perhaps Jesus would call something else out of our lives.  I don’t believe the point was that Jesus doesn’t want anyone to have anything ever.  The point was that for this person there was a stumbling block found in his wealth and possessions.  What is our wealth?  What is our possessions?  What is our stumbling block?  What is the one thing in our lives that Jesus might ask for that would cause us to shrink back saying “No, Jesus, anything but that.  I couldn’t possibly give that up—not even for you.”  The thing is that Jesus wants our whole hearts.  Anything that gets between us and Jesus is fair game to be called out.

Rather than falling prey we should fall and pray—“Jesus, what do you want from me?  Please help me give that to you.”

The truth is that even when you do give up all to follow after Jesus there are still challenges and struggles and persecutions.  Jesus calls us to take up a cross.  That can be a lonely, hard and painful place sometimes.

What we know is that what the world puts as first and foremost importance—wealth, popularity, influence, appearance, fame, respect, power, safety, comfort, etc., etc.—can be diametrically opposed to the things of the kingdom of God.  In truth we can often find Jesus more clearly in the things the world puts as last and leastmost importance—poor, disenfranchised, cutoff, imprisoned, hungry, maimed, weak, hurting, etc., etc.

We don’t earn salvation.  We don’t earn eternal life.  As Jesus said, “For mortals it is impossible,…”  We cannot do what is required.  But Jesus did what we could not—“for God all things are possible.”  Jesus took up the cross, Jesus looked down at all of creation (including us) and loved all of creation (including us) and said with his very life “I love you.”  This is the deep and abiding truth of John 3:16.  We have been granted eternal life.  It is our joy and privilege to take up our cross and follow after Jesus not even caring where we are in the world—first, last or anywhere in between.

God, we have been blessed with so much.  Help us loosen our grip so that you can use those things, which are yours anyway, in whatever way you should choose.  God we cower behind things afraid of the truth that you want our whole selves—take whatever you want, it is yours anyway.  We shy away from the call to take up our cross.  Give us strength and courage to love like you did no matter the cost.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

e-vo for week of October 3

Dear e-votees-

Life is meant to be lived in community. God desires us to live into rich and healthy and fulfilling relationships. The assigned texts for this Sunday of the revised common lectionary have themes of relationship between people and relationship between people and God. In all these things we do no better than to look to Jesus for examples of how to do this well.

A word to RLC members who have been receiving e-vos: As I complete this call at Resurrection on October 14 I will be culling RLC members from the distribution list. October 10 will be the last Wednesday that I will be sending an e-vo to you. It is important to make the cleanest and healthiest break possible when a pastor leaves so that all can move on to the next season to which God is leading them. It has been a joy to serve as one of your pastors. Godspeed as you press into the next steps of your long, storied and faithful journey.



18 Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner." 19 So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken." 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Genesis 2:18-24, NRSV

It is not good for us to be alone.

Yet, we live in a culture that glorifies the strong, silent, self-sufficient types: think Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino or many of his roles in westerns, think most of the incarnations of James Bond, think Mad Max or Dirty Harry or most of John Wayne’s characters. The model is held up that we should be able to do it all by ourselves, without help, without partners, without support, without desiring things to be different. So many of us shun help. We distrust motives of those getting too close. We work like it all depends on us and drive up stress and heart attacks and depression and loneliness. We have bought into the lie.

And the Lord God looks at us and again says “It is not good for humanity to be alone”. Jesus came to make community with the lonely, the broken, the outcast, the self-righteous, the wealthy, the maimed, the seemingly in perfect health and everyone else—the world in all its forms and characters. He came to bring help and to be a partner. He came to give company and solace and support and encouragement. He came to show us the need for the cross and then to take his place on the cross in our stead. Jesus became bone of our bones, flesh of our flesh. So we are called to leave the broken ways in which the world tries to raise us and to become one with Jesus. That was his lingering prayer for us all in John 17.

There are all sorts of images of brides, bridegrooms, weddings and feasts in the Bible that show us some of the aspects of God’s coming and already kingdom. Mostly, I think, we can take comfort that God seeks the church like husbands and wives seek each other—in supportive love, in healing steadfastness and in ever-increasing joy. To be sure human marriages often miss the mark of the hopeful vows but when we get close there is a holy glimpse of what God is creating in us and for us unto eternity. Thanks be to God.

God, forgive our lonely and solitary ways. We choose safe over good (in the words of Mr. Beaver); we choose stubborn over humble; we choose stoic over sometimes ham-handed loving overtures. Break our stony hearts that we might love one another. Break our stony hearts that we might love you. Bring Jesus’ lingering prayer to bear in our broken ways. Amen.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

e-vo for week of September 26

Dear e-votees-

This week’s appointed epistle text has much to say about prayer and healing. It seems fitting that we linger with that text. And particularly ponder when prayers seems unanswered and suffering seems beyond what a loving and reasonable God should allow.

A word to RLC members who have been receiving e-vos: As I complete this call at Resurrection on October 14 I will be culling RLC members from the distribution list. October 10 will be the last Wednesday that I will be sending an e-vo to you. It is important to make the cleanest and healthiest break possible when a pastor leaves so that all can move on to the next season to which God is leading them. It has been a joy to serve as one of your pastors. Godspeed as you press into the next steps of your long, storied and faithful journey.



13 Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. 19 My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 20 you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner's soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

James 5:13-20, NRSV

Prayer is real and powerful and efficacious. It is a practice of people who long to follow after God and know God’s heart. It is something Jesus did and taught us to do. It is something that is front and center in a text like this one from James.

Some things to glean from this passage:
• When we suffer prayer is where we should go
• When we are hurting we should call faithful people to gather around for prayer
• Prayer and confession bring about healing
• There is a connection between belief and prayer
• When people who are wandering are welcomed and restored it brings healing and restoration to all

Sometimes when we are hurting and sick and cut off we flee from God. Sometimes we wonder (as did Job’s friends) what was done to cause the affliction. Sometimes we are so ashamed of where we are or of what we have done that we don’t call people at all let alone faithful people to come and pray. Sometimes we pray without confessing. Sometimes we confess without praying. Either way the entire experience is diminished and less likely to bring about wholeness and healing. Sometimes we pay too much attention to our level of belief or lack of belief and not enough attention on the one to whom we are praying. Sometimes we savor judging and excluding those who most need to be welcomed and restored. Sometimes we know that pain of isolation and disdain firsthand.

Prayer is not a cosmic gumball machine where we work the knobs and levers and get what we want, when we want. Lingering in unanswered prayer is also a practice of people who long to follow after God and know God’s heart. It is something Jesus did and shows us how to do. It is something that is alive and kicking in the background of a text like this one from James.

Some questions to ask of a passage such as this:
• Where can we find help as we linger in exquisite pain or in suffering that doesn’t just waft away through prayer? (see Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, see Job in his anguish, see King David as his newborn son by Bathsheba lingers and dies, see “Choosing to See”—a book by Mary Beth Chapman about her struggle to walk through the tragic accident that changed her family’s trajectory forever, see many who have lost faith trying to come to terms with suffering in the world, see the mirror on one of your not-so-good days)
• Where can we find safe communities to be real and to be sustained in prayer? How can we craft those safe places for others?
• How can we linger in prayer and petition? How can we linger in confession and absolution? How can we weave these practices together more intimately?
• What is the connection between doubt and prayer?
• How can we, as people of faith, dismantle walls and barriers and practices that repel those most in need of inclusion?

God, bring us back from our wandering—save us from death. Craft loving, prayerful, welcoming, wrestling, faithful, inclusive, open-to-doubting, repentant communities in and around us all. Stir up your truth among us and give us the courage to press into it boldly. Amen.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

e-vo for week of September 19

Dearest e-votees-

This coming Friday (September 21) is the day set aside in the church year to commemorate St. Matthew—the gospel writer and disciple. For this week’s devotional moment we’ll lean on the epistle lesson assigned for this day of the church year.



4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Ephesians 2:4-10, NRSV

“But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us.”

We have been saved. God loved us through death. God loved us even when we were dead. God loved us even though it brought about Jesus’ death. We have been saved. We have been saved by the abundance of God’s mercy. We have been saved by grace—pure gift from God. We can’t do anything to earn God’s love. We can’t do enough wrong to forever spurn God’s love. God loves us. In response, and only in response, can we live into the good works God has prepared for us.

The word for love is agape (uh-gah-pay). It is a love that reflects the qualities of the lover and not so much those of the beloved. God loves because it is in God’s nature to love. We are bestowed with an undeserved love—one which cannot be deterred. God loves us through death. Our mortal and terminal ways cannot kill God’s love. We have been saved. Done, finished, fait accompli—thanks be to God.

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which God loves us…

We are loved. God loves us to life. Even though we were once dead, unclean, unsavory, etc., etc., God loves us. We are being loved into our salvations. We are growing daily into a fuller measure of experiencing God’s mercies. We are loved each and every day—pure gift from God. We can’t do anything with God’s persistent love except receive it—and share it. And that, God’s beloved, are the good works that God has prepared for us.

God, you love us through death. You love us to life. Help us love a world that needs a resurrection sort of love. Amen.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

e-vo for week of September 12

Dearest e-votees-

Who do people say that you are? How are you known? What are you called? What is the lasting impression that people have? If they had to sum you up in one word what would they choose?

Who do you want to be? How do you want to be known? What would you like to be called? What is the lasting impression you want people to have? If you could choose a word to sum you up which one would you choose?

How about we take a word out for a devotional spin? Let’s go with “LOSER” and see what God might say.



27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" 28 And they answered him, "John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." 29 He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah." 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. 31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." 34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

Mark 8:27-38, NRSV

I have a shirt like the one in the picture. I’m actually on my second such shirt since I wore the first one out. It comes from a ministry called Youth Enterprise. I picked them both up at the end of service-mission trips with Youthworks! Youth Enterprise is a ministry that teaches urban kids life and business skills with a faith perspective. The youth involved learn things like production, bookkeeping, marketing, shipping, etc., etc. The shirts they sell have one word on the front and an accompanying scripture verse on the back. This particular shirt has Matthew 10:39 -Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. This verse deeply resonates with Mark 10:35 above.

When I wear the shirt people inevitably make comments, raise eyebrows and sometimes engage in conversation. Here is one such exchange:

We were touring the Liberty Bell after serving a week with Youthworks! in Philadelphia. I had on my shirt. The elderly woman behind the counter saw my shirt and said “Oh, you’re not a loser.” I suggested that she might want to read the back. As I turned she said “Oh, you are a loser. But it is the good kind!”

We are called to be losers. We are called to shed the expectations that the world puts on us that kick against God’s superior vision for our lives. We are called to lose ourselves in our baptisms and find ourselves in the empty tomb. We are called to associate with the outcasts, the lepers, the broken, the misfit toys, the unclean and the unsavory—the losers—and count them among our friends, our families and our communities.

There is a movie: Facing the Giants that came out in 2006. If you don’t want the movie spoiled for you, stop reading and we’ll see you next week…

The gist of the movie is that a loser, ragtag coach and his football team are headed nowhere fast. Then, they stumble upon the idea that whether they win or whether they lose they will do everything for the Lord. Sure enough everything turns around: they win the football championship, coach gets a new truck, the coach’s wife who was unable to conceive, etc. etc. Basically they get everything for following after God. This strand of theology has a name—Theology of Glory.

I find it much more intriguing to think about what it means to lose to the glory of God. Clearly the cross of Christ is such a place. Mother Teresa’s life has a loser quality to it. Remember the softball players carrying their opponent around the bases when she injured herself?—clearly that’s losing to the glory of God, especially when you hear their motivation. This strand of theology—losing in order to bring glory to God has a name—Theology of the Cross.

The path that God opens to us may not be one that looks like winning in the world—that’s just fine. The call to the cross of Christ will certainly bring about death—that’s what crosses do. We may well lose things, relationships and places of honor in the world—God will take care of us.

God, help us to cling tenaciously to you and let everything else take its rightful place even if that is in the lost & found bin. Stir us to find our lives in you. Amen.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

e-vo for week of September 5

Dearest e-votees-

The appointed epistle text from James has some pointed words about believers in Christ and the practice of favoritism. The call on all who would call Jesus Christ their Lord to love their neighbor as themselves is lifted up.

Also are the words reminding us that faith, without works, is dead.

May we all faithfully work—having been saved by grace through faith—at loving all neighbors we encounter.



2 My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? 2 For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, 3 and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? 7 Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? 8 You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

[11 For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.]

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

James 2:1-10 [11-13] 14-17, NRSV

Have you ever wandered into a community of faith and realize that you have something that the community desperately covets? Perhaps you and your family with small children walk into a graying congregation and are swarmed with enthusiastic greetings and welcomes. Perhaps you are financially well-suited and find a congregation whose stewardship patterns have been lacking. Perhaps the choir director picks out your voice during congregational singing and makes a beeline during coffee hour to tell you all about the vocal music ministries of the congregation. There is a marked difference between celebrating who people are and what they bring to a situation and sharks circling blood in the water. I’ve experienced and inflicted sharklike attention—not good.

James speaks of how we receive people who might come into our assembly.

One approach is seeing in someone something we want. If one comes in wearing gold rings and fine clothes then they may well be wealthy. We would welcome having them participate in our stewardship campaign. They may well be people of influence as well. We would welcome them for the persuasive connections they may have and perhaps as evangelistic envoys. We may well seek to get on the good side of these influential people so that they will be forces for good rather than oppression in our lives. In short, we may go after them for what we think they might offer us.

Another approach is in disdaining those we deem as unsavory. If one comes in wearing dirty clothes then they are most likely poor. We might see them as a drain on our already limited or tapped out benevolent resources. We might question their motives or their characters for showing up with their obvious need. We might well not want others to be offended by the sight or smell or general demeanor of our unwashed guest and invite them to sit in out of the way or undignified spaces. We might seek to constrain or limit the level of participation so that they will not be forces for disruption and dissension in our lives. In short, we might go after them for what we might think they might do to us.

James calls out our tendencies to make distinctions and unduly honor or dishonor those made in the image of God. The call on us is to love our neighbor as ourselves. When we ask questions like “Who is our neighbor?” Jesus talks about folks like Good Samaritans who transgress all sorts of social taboos to offer care with no hope of a reward. When we ask questions like “Where might we experience Jesus when we serve?” Jesus talks about the imprisoned, the sick, the naked, the hungry, the cutoff, the lonely and the disenfranchised. The issue for James wasn’t treating the rich one well—it was treating the poor one less well. The works that James speak of call us to task to be sure to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, warm the cold and otherwise care for those in need.

Micah says it this way:

6 “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:6-8, NRSV

The Lord has told us what works are pleasing: do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God. When we engage and confront a world that allows such disparities of wealth and quality of life we find a living faith. When we show kindness to all—particularly to those who may not have obvious rewards to give us for our kindness—we find a living faith. When humbly walk with God and do things like linger with those cutoff, wash the feet of those others would make sit by the feet and seek the image of God in all—particularly in those covered over by the dirt of this world—we find a living faith.

God, stoke a burning, living, vibrant faith in us. Help us love our neighbors as ourselves. Help us grow in being just, kind and humble—all to your glory. Amen.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

e-vo for week of August 29

Dearest e-votees-

This week’s assigned readings in the lectionary include Psalm 15 it its entirety.

The psalm offers some guidelines as to who may enter the Lord’s tent and who may ascend the Lord’s hill.

Some of this week’s inspiration comes from studying Barbara R. Rossing’s The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation with our Tuesday study group.



1 O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill? 2 Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart; 3 who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors; 4 in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear the Lord; who stand by their oath even to their hurt; 5 who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent. Those who do these things shall never be moved.

Psalm 15, NRSV

For those who want to be able to dwell in the Lord’s tent (tabernacle, temple, holy place, etc.) the psalmist lays out some pretty thorough qualifications.

For those who want to ascend towards the Lord’s holy hill (tabernacle, temple, holy place, etc.) there are some rather exacting expectations.

The expectations are:
• To walk blamelessly (aka do what is right)
• To speak the truth from the heart and to never slander
• To do no evil to friends, nor reproach neighbors
• To despise what or who is wicked
• To honor those who fear the Lord
• To never go back on an oath
• To not lend money at interest
• To never take a bribe against the innocent

How are you doing on these? Are you worthy to dwell in the Lord’s tent? Can you step on the Lord’s holy mountain without fear (check out Exodus 19:12-13).

It doesn’t take much honest reflection at all to realize we have no business approaching God based on our own worthiness and purity.

When you think about the passion of Jesus so many of these expectations were flagrantly violated. And how easily we would have been complicit in the same things were we physically present: hiding for our own hide’s sake rather than staying true to an oath to never deny nor forsake the Lord? allowing and calling for evil to be done to our friend, Jesus, while taking refuge in the places and faces of wickedness? taking an expedient 30 silver pieces or so to look the other way while slander is spoken and the blameless takes the fall? The possibilities for falling down hard on the expectations of Psalm 15 are plentiful.

We can’t begin to claim any right to dwell in the Lord’s tent or to set foot on the Lord’s high places.

But then we read about God’s intentions for us in Revelation:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.

Revelation 21:1-6, NRSV

We have no business going up to God but God makes it God’s business to come down to us.

We have no right to enter into God’s tent but God comes down and “dwell”s (literally tents or tabernacles) with us.

God comes to us on God’s terms—love, forgiveness, peace, hope and restoration. Because of that we have hope and strength and courage to try to live more fully into how God would have us be as laid out in Psalm 15.

God, shape us into your people. Thank you for descending to us. Thank you for making community with us. We see this so clearly in Jesus’ life and ministry. We pray that you would bring this marvelous vision in Revelation to bear. In the meantime, while we wait, stir us to live according to your will. Amen.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

e-vo for week of August 22

Dearest e-votees-

This week’s lectionary selections include lots of low hanging fruit: Ephesians 6:10-20 (the Full Armor of God), John 6:56-69 (the final installment in our series of bread texts) and Joshua 24:1-2, 14-18 (including “Choose this day whom you will serve…as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”). We will use the Joshua text but realize that much has been left on the cutting room floor. You will be blessed if you peruse the outtakes this week.

Blessings on you and those you love as you find ways to choose to serve the Lord.



24 Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. 2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors—Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor—lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods.

[3 Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac; 4 and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. 5 Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in its midst; and afterwards I brought you out. 6 When I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, you came to the sea; and the Egyptians pursued your ancestors with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. 7 When they cried out to the Lord, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and made the sea come upon them and cover them; and your eyes saw what I did to Egypt. Afterwards you lived in the wilderness a long time. 8 Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan; they fought with you, and I handed them over to you, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you. 9 Then King Balak son of Zippor of Moab, set out to fight against Israel. He sent and invited Balaam son of Beor to curse you, 10 but I would not listen to Balaam; therefore he blessed you; so I rescued you out of his hand. 11 When you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, the citizens of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I handed them over to you. 12 I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove out before you the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. 13 I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and towns that you had not built, and you live in them; you eat the fruit of vineyards and oliveyards that you did not plant.]

14 “Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; 17 for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; 18 and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”

Joshua 24:1-2 [3-13] 14-18, NRSV

I was in Port-au-Prince Haiti with a group of young adults (it was a while ago) on a mission trip with STEM ministries. It was Sunday morning and we had a choice. We could either attend a local worship service and engage that community or we could go to the empty bandshell downtown, gather all who might come and have an open-air worship service. We decided on the latter.

We spread out in smaller groups with interpreters and went about the area inviting all we could find. It was simple. “We’re having church, would you like to come?” We bumped into a man who was carrying a green bottle full of a murky liquid with a something like a milkweed sticking out the top of the bottle. We invited him to come. He said that he would like to come but that he had to deliver this love potion for which he had already received payment--$20. (keep in mind that $20 was something like one-tenth of the average income of a large family in Haiti). Into my mind popped Joshua 24:15. I shared it with him, we said goodbye and parted ways. I wasn’t too concerned about what response we might get—our job was to invite, to cast seeds, to welcome—response was God’s department. On we went.

Later, during worship, the man found me. He beckoned to me. I followed and he took me to a bush. He showed me that inside the bush was a broken bottle with something like a milkweed laying among the broken pieces. We talked and shared and prayed. We made sure to help him get connected to the local church. I imagine God was more active than I first thought in our exchange.

Looking back these 25 or so years later I wonder:

+ Whatever happened to that man?

+ How willing would I be to yield one tenth (a tithe) of my annual wage in response to God’s call through someone I had just met?

+ How do we best continue to lift up the particular call to follow after Jesus in a world with sensibilities toward inclusion, tolerance and acceptance?

Three strands come to mind from the Joshua text:

1. All of us can choose to serve God in our own lives and in the expressions of faith in our households. To be sure, God chooses us first. In response, however, we can make choices that bring glory to God. There are so many other gods that vie for our attention—more explicitly religious gods, things more like idols (fame, power, security, wealth, comfort, etc., etc.), lifestyles, attentions, allegiances, sports, family, etc., etc. The call from Jesus (and from Joshua in the Old Testament) is to put all other things aside that we can more fully serve, worship, follow and adore God. This begins in the household.

2. In order for certain things to thrive and come to the fore others must be put down or pushed to the side. We don’t like to talk about this much. Verses 3-13 were conveniently left out of the lectionary. Peoples were displaced and afflicted in these verses. The things that have come our way have certainly displaced and afflicted others. Some of these histories are shameful and laden with sin—repentance and statements of remorse are most appropriate. Some of these histories are just how struggles for limited resources and better lives shake out. Some of these histories are guided by God’s hand—others we just like to presume such providential intervention. The truth is that there is a dark side to things that come our way—unclear histories, sinful inclinations and much too quickly attributing God’s election on our cause of choice. Part of serving God as a household is finding times and ways to reflect, repent and make restoration as the Holy Spirit empowers.

3. God has given us a calling and a way of life that is superior to the false callings and ways of life offered by the world. The calling is not ours alone. The way of life is not constrained to people who are like us. We are called to invite all who would come. We are called to be like the farmer scattering seeds. We are called to publicly and earnestly lift up the hope we have in God. It may seem like it is falling on deaf ears. It may seem to be bouncing off hard soil. But I don’t think Joshua had any idea that we would still be drawing hope and inspiration from his proclamation so many years ago. I didn’t have any idea what a profound response would be stirred in the man with the love potion near that abandoned bandshell in Port-au-Prince. We don’t know who or when will be the opportune moment. That’s God’s business. We’re just called to serve God by offering that hope we have found in God.

Dear God, all of us and our households have dark and shameful moments—stir us to honest reflection and repentance. All of us and our households could serve you more resolutely and more fervently, stir us to know you more deeply and serve you more faithfully. All of us and our households could scatter your good news more freely, more cheerfully and more often—help us scatter your grace and salvation with reckless abandon. Amen.

Friday, August 17, 2012

e-vo for week of August 15

Dearest e-votees-

Our appointed Old Testament text for this coming Sunday comes from Proverbs.

May God’s wisdom and invitation stir us to put aside our simple ways and receive the Lord more fully.



1 Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars. 2 She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table. 3 She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls from the highest places in the town, 4 "You that are simple, turn in here!" To those without sense she says, 5 "Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. 6 Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight."

Proverbs 9:1-6, NRSV

This text accompanies another one of the bread texts in the gospel. There is an invitation in both for people to come and eat the bread, drink the cup and live. The invitation seems rather direct and rather simple—and yet we balk.

For some the invitation might seem too simplistic. How can eating bread and drinking wine bring life? How can we be saved and given life by heeding such a simple invitation? Surely there is something I must do. Sure there is something I can add. Surely we can find something better to convey life and God’s promises than mere bread and mere wine. These invitations worked in Jesus’ time and in the time that Proverbs was written, perhaps, but the world is a much more complicated place now. Surely we can nuance and enhance the message a bit for modern sensibilities. But God continues to invite us to come to the simple yet life giving meal of bread and wine. In the body and the blood we are assured life. The meal that is offered to us is offered to all (Peter, Judas and all we might deem unworthy). We are called to partake and to bring others to the table.

For some we might push back against the implications that we are simpletons. We want to think we are so much further along the road than we are. We want grown up food beyond mere bread and common wine. We are like Naaman (see 2 Kings 5:1-19) refusing to stoop into the cleansing waters of the Jordan. Just as he pushed against the baptismal foreshadowing we can push against the promises found in the meal of bread and wine. We think we know better than Elisha or the writer of the Proverbs or Jesus or even God. We hear the call for the simple to turn and be granted life yet in our pride we want to stride right on by and persist in our immaturity.

For some we might resist the implications of the simplicity. If we are invited in through no merit of our own to receive life at God’s gracious table than so are all the others. Since the meal and the life come from the gracious hands of the one offering the meal we have no means to boast. We cannot distinguish ourselves as more saved or more worthy or having a better place at the banquet. Jesus offered little time and attention to such requests. He said that we ought to enter banquets and sit in the way back and perhaps get invited to a different and better place. Jesus was talking about the humility in which we should receive what is offered to us.

There is life and healing offered to us in the wine and the bread. It is simple yet so very fulfilling and true. Will we enter into salvation on God’s terms and will we invite others to do the same? There is life and healing offered to us in the waters of baptism. It is so simple yet so fulfilling and true. Will we enter into the waters on God’s terms and invite others to do the same? Will we lay aside immaturity and walk in the ways of God’s insight? Will we help others, particularly those who may wish us harm, to do the same?

God, never stop offering the bread of life and the cup of reconciliation to us. Draw us into your simplicity and grant us life. Help us never stop offering the bread of life and cup of reconciliation to all who come our way. Help us make room for all in your simplicity and for us to grow in communal life. Thank you, Jesus, for giving us everything you had on this earth including your body and shedding your blood. Amen.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

e-vo for week of August 8

Dearest e-votees-

This week’s appointed Old Testament text has Elijah on the run from Jezebel. He has become exhausted and disheartened and is ready to be done with it all.

How are you doing energy wise? How are you doing in terms of your spirit? Do you need something to energize you and invigorate you?



4 But [Elijah] himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” 8 He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. 9 At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.

1 Kings 19:4-8, NRSV

Elijah has just had a huge victory through God’s intervention with the priests of Baal (see 1 Kings 18:20-40). He has known God’s power and he has seen God’s provision. From a human perspective the odds were stacked against Elijah 450 to 1 but God’s perspective is so very different than our own.

In addition to the victory over the prophets, Elijah prayed and the drought which had plagued the land ceased (see 1 Kings 18:41-46 and James 5:17-18). Elijah was, through God’s power and inspiration, able to win whatever seemed to come his way.

Then Jezebel muttered a threat and Elijah ran. He struck off on his own and was ready to be done. So quickly the rush of victory faded. Despair had set in. In his exhaustion he slept.

God provides food (bread) and God provides drink (water). Through the angel God encourages to have bread for the journey. That spiritual food and that spiritual drink sustained Elijah for 40 days and nights as he journeyed to Horeb.

Which parts of Elijah’s story resonate with you? Are you tired? Are you despairing? Are people muttering threats? Have you known successes and victories and achievements that only could have come about through God’s help? Do you have somewhere to go and are longing for bread for the journey? Where are you this day?

God provides water and bread for sustenance.

God’s water finds us in baptism. It finds us with the Samaritan woman at the well. It finds us when Jesus proclaims that he is the living water. God’s water sustains us. We are invited to revisit our baptisms daily. To drink in Jesus. To find blessings even when we give a cup of water to another in Jesus’ name.

God’s bread finds us in communion. It finds us with the 5,000 + on the hillside. It finds us when Jesus proclaims that he is the bread of life. God’s bread sustains us. We are invited to pray for our daily bread. To ingest Jesus. To find blessings when we break bread with strangers and widows and orphans in Jesus’ name.

God, slake our thirst with your water. Sate our hunger with your bread. Sustain us that we might continue on this journey until, by your grace and mercy, you bring us into the place you have prepared for us. Help us share water and bread with all, even the Jezebels in our lives, that they might know your grace and mercy too. Amen.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

e-vo for week of August 1

Dearest e-votees-

What are you hungering for? What would really satisfy you? Are you hungering for something that will perish or something that will endure for eternal life?

If you could have Jesus do one thing for you that would shore up your belief in him what would you ask? What would satisfy your spiritual longings? What might slake your doubts?

We live in a world that cultivates dissatisfaction and skepticism and an egocentric way of being in the world. How might God help us to receive and believe in the bread of life which comes from heaven—Jesus?



24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" 26 Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal." 28 Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." 30 So they said to him, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, "He gave them bread from heaven to eat.' " 32 Then Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." 34 They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." 35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

John 6:24-35, NRSV

Leading into this account about the bread of life is Jesus feeding the 5,000 men (and women and children courtesy of Matthew) with five barley loaves and two fish. When all was said and done there were 12 baskets of leftovers (perhaps one for each disciple). This miracle is what Jesus is referencing in verse 26. The crowd asks Jesus for a sign. They said that their ancestors ate manna—bread from heaven—and they want a sign as well. They had just had such a sign when Jesus blessed, broke and distributed enough food for thousands of people from a boy’s lunch but apparently they were still hungry for more signs. They want to see if Jesus has the same kind of power that Moses had. Jesus offers everything he has—himself. He says those who come to him will never be hungry and never be thirsty.

Immediately before this account is Jesus walking on the water. Jesus has shown several signs that should convince even the most dissatisfied and skeptical and self-centered person that Jesus is different than what the world offers. Jesus is something not like the fading satisfactions of a meal or a cool drink. Jesus has power over the foodstuffs of fish and bread (about as basic as a meal gets in that culture). Jesus has power over the waters (obviously necessary for life but also seen as chaotic and fierce and threatening). Jesus offers himself saying those who seek him will sate their hungers and slake their thirsts.

In the face of all of these demonstrations of power the people still want more. No matter how much they seem to see and taste and drink and experience they still want more. Somehow being in the very presence of Jesus doesn’t seem to take care of all the desires and longings of the human heart. Perhaps when we are honest we don’t always feel that all of our needs and desires and longings are properly tended either. This is when faith comes in. We are saved not because of what we feel or think or perceive or experience. We are saved (and do the works of God) by believing in Jesus whom God has sent. And even this belief is a gift from God for we cannot believe in our own strength. In this Jesus—in whom God stirs us to believe—our hungers will be sated. In this Jesus—in whom God stirs us to believe—our thirsts will be slaked. In this Jesus—in whom God stirs us to believe—there is sustenance that endures for eternal life.

God, work belief in us. In spite of our dissatisfaction work belief and bring life. In spite of our skepticism work belief and bring life. In spite of our egocentric ways work belief and bring life. God, bring eternal life in us. Amen.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

e-vo for week of July 25

Dearest e-votees-

July 25th is the day that is set aside in the church calendar to commemorate the Apostle James (aka James son of Zebedee aka James the brother of John aka James the Elder). In honor of that event in our church calendar we will look at when James and his brother ask Jesus for the best seats in the house when Jesus comes in his glory (in the Matthew 20:20-28 account it is their mother who does the asking).

One of my favorite authors, Gordon Atkinson (aka RealLivePreacher) wrote a version of this story folding in the demoniac who was healed in Mark 5:1-20. I would commend this version to you as well as it is a wonderfully engaging account. Let the reader beware there is PG-13 language to be had in this version. If you still want to read it you can find it at: James, John and Crazy Joe.

May we blessed as we celebrate the life and testimony of James and take the rightful place that Jesus has prepared for us in the kingdom of God.



35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." 36 And he said to them, "What is it you want me to do for you?" 37 And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." 38 But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" 39 They replied, "We are able." Then Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared." 41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, "You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."

Mark 10:35-45, NRSV

There is a call on each and every one of us created in God’s image who have been baptized into life in Jesus--that call is to one of service.

Jesus came and showed us this by pouring his life out on the cross.

Jesus came and showed us this by pouring water in a basin and doing the lowest work that could be found on behalf of those who would abandon him and deny him and betray him.

Jesus came and showed us this by letting a Samaritan woman pour him a drink which allowed her to be empowered and affirmed and engaged breaking all sorts of cultural taboos.

Jesus came and showed us this by letting his cousin John pour water over him and baptize him even though John thought it should be the other way around.

Jesus asks James and John (not the baptizer) if they are able to drink his cup and share in his baptism. They say that they are. Perhaps they weren’t so sure during the trials and throes of Holy Week that soon followed. Perhaps they weren’t so sure during the persecutions of the church. But Jesus was with them. And he never forsook them. And they have taken the places prepared for them--the ones he himself went to prepare (see John 14:1-3). James and John are secure because Jesus made promises on behalf of God. And Jesus fulfills the promises of God.

Perhaps there is a cup that we might like to pass our lips. Perhaps there is a foreboding baptism. We might be wondering if we can put the cup to our lips or be immersed in the baptism that is before us. We might cough out an “I’m able, Lord” or we might just keep a dubious silence. There may be times where we feel persecuted or in over our heads or abandoned. But Jesus will not forsake us. There is a place that is prepared for us too. Jesus went to prepare our place and he will return for us. We are secure because Jesus made promises on behalf of God. And Jesus fulfills the promises of God.

While we wait we can bide our time in service. If we get noticed or not isn’t so important. Whether or where we sit or stand or kneel isn’t so important. If we are in front of the room or in back of the room or serving as a doorkeeper isn’t so important. What is important is that Jesus came and gave his life as a ransom for many—and for one, you. Our place is secure. Jesus poured out his life and invites us through baptism to be poured out with him. Why would we even think of passing up such a life-giving offer?

God, teach us to abide in our baptisms. Let your gracious waters pour into our lives. Pour us out as agents of your grace in the world as we give ourselves to your work, to wash feet, to reach out to the shunned and the cutoff and to enter into your kingdom on your terms—grace, mercy and forgiveness. Amen.