Wednesday, April 25, 2012

e-vo for week of April 25

Dearest e-votees-

This Sunday’s appointed text is the familiar gospel text about Jesus being the good shepherd.

It reminds us that we have one looking out for us who will do whatever it takes—even to the very point of laying down his life and taking it up again—to ensure our safety. And the “our” is a broad “our” including those that do not yet belong to the fold. Thanks be to God.



11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father."

John 10:11-18, NRSV

Just some rhetorical questions…

• Do you treat your rental cars as carefully as you would your brand new car you were driving home from the dealership on purchase day?

• Are you as diligent about turning off extra lights at the hotel as when it is courtesy of your power bill at home?

• Would it surprise you to learn that some people, while in the process of being evicted, pour cement down the drains of the house that once was theirs?

• Are you as mindful about portion control and not wasting food at home as you are at the all-you-can-eat buffet?

• Would you treat your workplace differently as the owner as compared to the minimum-wage earning hireling?

We treat things differently when we regard them as ours in contrast to when we are putting in the time minding someone else’s stuff.

Consider watching sheep. Sheep aren’t always the best at self-care. They can wander away from the fold one bite of food at a time until they are exposed to elements, dangerous surroundings and hungry predators. When we are compared to sheep by Jesus it isn’t always the most flattering reference.

In order to protect sheep someone needs to stay with them – to look out for predators, to guide them back to the fold, to get them to proper food and water, to gather them and help them live safely and be well tended.

There are really a couple of options:

OPTION 1: The sheep owner can hire someone to take care of tending the sheep. If one wanders off towards the predators the hireling might not want to be troubled or endangered. If one gets lost the hireling might rationalize that it’s better to look after the 99% and practice some sort of “Occupy Sheepfold”. When it comes to watering and feeding the flock the hireling might cut corners, add fillers, save time at the expense of the health of the flock. Bottom line: The hireling doesn’t have nearly the incentive to care for the sheep—when danger comes the hireling may well flee.

OPTION 2: The sheep owner can take care of the sheep. If one wanders off into dangerous territory the owner may well risk it to save the 1% from danger. When it is your prized possession or your profits or your reputation on the line every sheep matters. It seems crazy to the hireling but makes perfect sense to the loving shepherd. When it comes to feeding one’s own sheep nothing but the best. Forget foul water and filler-filled by-products—the sheep would get bread and wine, cleansing water and any other manner of gracious gift. When you know the sheep by name and they know you then you will do whatever is required – even unto laying down your life. Bottom line: The good shepherd lays claim to the sheep – nothing can separate them from the love of their shepherd – NOTHING!

God (aka Jesus aka the Good Shepherd) loves us – to the point that there is nothing God won’t face to claim us, save us, cleanse us and draw us into a joyful and abundant life. It doesn’t stop with us. God chases after sheep that are not yet part of the fold. When God sees us God does not see rental cars and foreclosed upon houses and hotel lighting and squanderable all-you-can-eat buffets and very disgruntled part-time, underpaid labor forces. When God sees us God sees ones made in God’s image. God sees invaluable treasures, wandering but deeply loved sheep and ones worthy of making the ultimate sacrifice in order to save.

God thank you for claiming us. Thank you for chasing away predators, drawing us all others deeper into the fold, feeding us with body and blood, cleansing us, drawing us into community and teaching us to live in joyful abundance. Help us see ourselves and others as you do. Forgive our hireling ways and shape us to be sheep dogs bringing glory to the Good Shepherd. Amen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

e-vo for week of April 18

Dearest e-votees-

This week’s appointed gospel text features a post-resurrection appearance by Jesus to the eleven disciples, their companions and the two who were on the road to Emmaus—Cleopas and the other who was not named. He offers them peace, shows his wounds, breaks fish with them, opens their minds and calls them to be witnesses of all of these things.

This meal is one of the three types of meals of fish that Jesus had with his disciples. All of them are instructive and reveal to us the nature of this Jesus who lived and breathed, who died while yielding his last breath and then lived and breathed again.



Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

Luke 24:36b-48, NRSV

There are three types of fish meals in the gospels where Jesus is present:

Meal of Provision: Miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes—Feeding of the 5,000 + (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14) and Feeding of the 4,000 + (Matthew 15:32-39; Mark 8:1-10

Meal of Revelation: Jesus shows proof that he is indeed risen from the grave (Luke 24:36b-48)

Meal of Restoration: Jesus welcomes Peter back into the fold (John 21:1-14)

Meal of Provision:

Jesus demonstrates the compassion heart of God. At both meals (5,000 + and 4,000 +) there are large crowds with not enough to eat. Rather than send them away Jesus takes a meager portion of fish and bread and multiplies it so that there are baskets full in the aftermath (12 and 7 respectively—both rather holy numbers). The feeding of the 5,000 + is the only miracle that Jesus performed that was recorded in all 4 gospels. There is something good and deep and important about God blessing and breaking bread and providing sustenance. The resonance with Holy Communion is abundantly clear as well. God loves the multitudes. God has compassion on them. God can and will meet their needs. There is sufficient resources when offered in faith. We, too, are part of the multitudes. God has compassion on us. God can and will meet our needs. There are sufficient resources when we approach God in faith. Thanks be to God.

Meal of Revelation::

Jesus appears to the gathered disciples. Jesus reveals himself by offering peace and by showing them the wounds from the cross. They know full well that Jesus was thoroughly dead on Good Friday. They may well be thinking that a ghost is standing before them. To help prove otherwise Jesus eats in their presence since folks knew full well that ghosts don’t eat food (see Mark 5:43 and Luke 8:55 for other examples of recently dead people have something to eat). Once he has satisfied the disciples that he has indeed been raised from the dead he shows them how this was foretold in scripture. He then sends the disciples out to bear witness. God has come into the world to be revealed to us as well. He has died and been risen. He reveals himself in the eating (certainly to us in Holy Communion). There is a call to study scriptures and to bear witness. Surely this call is on our lives. Thanks be to God.

Meal of Restoration:

Peter stood huddling around a charcoal fire (ahn-thra-kee-us--Greek root of our word “anthracite”) while denying Jesus in John 18:18. Three times he denied Jesus even though he swore he would follow him even to death. That word for charcoal fire appears only one other place in all of the New Testament. In John 21, after the miraculous catch of fish, Jesus is cooking fish over the ahn-thra-kee-us. Jesus offers fish and bread (familiar menu) to them. He then asks Peter three times if Peter loves Jesus (two different words in the Greek, loses something in translation). Paralleling the three denials Peter affirms three times that he indeed loves Jesus. Having been restored to the fold Jesus tells Peter some about how he will die and bring honor to God. God has come into the world. We have surely denied God with words and/or actions. God comes and restores us. There is now a call to lay down our lives (literally or figuratively) for the sake of the gospel. Thanks be to God.

God, we thank you for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We thank you that he meets us in meals of provision, revelation and restoration. Help us eat of these meals and invite all that we can to take their place at the table as well. You are faithful and good. Thanks be to you.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

e-vo for week of April 11

Dearest e-votees,

I hope and pray that your celebration of the empty tomb continues joyfully.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!



1 We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— 3 we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; 7 but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 1:1-2:2, NRSV

This appointed text is full of words of speaking and testimony: declare (3x), message (1x), testify (1x) , say (3x) and writing (2x). The response to the Word revealed in the world (through Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection) is to offer words of testimony and proclamation to others.

Verse 3 reminds us that this is done so that others might have fellowship as well.

Verse 4 reminds us that those who give testimony have their joy made complete.

Verses 5-7 call us to have different lives—ones full of light.

Verses 8-10 speaks truthfully that we will not shine our light perfectly and that God’s forgiveness will cleanse us and restore us when we misstep.

Good News: The Word has come into the world. Jesus has come that he might be heard and seen and tasted and smelled and touched—particularly touched as this Sunday as we remember Thomas. Jesus has fully and faithfully revealed what we need to know about God. Jesus brought life, healing, restoration, reconciliation, grace and peace to a world that was mortally languishing, sick, in disrepair, in tension, driven by a insatiable works righteousness ethic and at war—within and without. Jesus has come that he might bring abundant life.

Bad News: We continue to favor the dark over the light. We err by what we do and by what we do not do. While Jesus is faithful and just we can be faithless and corrupt. We are kin with those who called for Barabbas’ freedom and for Jesus to be crucified. We choose to serve ourselves and our self-interests at the expense of others. We try to wrest away the gracious gift from the hand of God and squirrel it away as our own. And worse yet, we protest our innocence—we are kin with Cain (“Am I my brother’s keeper?”) and with Adam (“The woman you whom you gave to me gave me the fruit”). We compound sin with our lies and make God out to be a liar.

Good News: Nothing can separate us from the love of God not even our broken and sinful ways. The tomb is empty and even our murderous ways were not sufficient to silence the gospel. As God moves us to confess and turn to God we are made well and returned to fellowship. As we are healed and restored, we are able to give testimony and invite others who have also chosen the crooked paths. God will not leave us in our broken ways but beckons us—again and again—into the light of forgiveness and grace. Unfortunately, we will sin. But, we have an advocate in Jesus Christ who is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and the sins of the world. Thanks be to God.

Dear God, we thank you for all Jesus has done for us. Help us live into it most fully and to share the good news with all who might hear. Continue to change our faithless and broken ways that we might shine our lights well. Help others see our light and glorify you—our Father in heaven. We pray this all in the strong name of Jesus—our brother, our friend and our atoning sacrifice. Amen.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

e-vo for week of April 3

Dearest e-votees-

I hope and pray that your Holy Week is blessed and good.

I hope you can and will take advantage of as many opportunities as possible to linger and abide in worship over the holy days ahead.

The lectionary has assigned readings for each of the days of Holy Week. We will use the epistle reading for Wednesday as our focus for devotion this week.



1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-3, NRSV

This appointed lesson comes on the heels (race pun intended) of the chapter about the luminaries in the faith found in chapter 11. The great faiths and faithful exploits of our spiritual ancestors in the faith are lifted up. The recipients of the epistle to the Hebrews, and we too, are invited to find a home among the great cloud of witnesses.

When I ran track we would talk about someone “hitting the piano” in a race. They would be running along and at some point (often in the 3rd lap of the mile) they would noticeably slow down. It is as if they ran into a piano or it fell upon them and drained their speed and stamina from his or her body. The author of Hebrews is cautioning us to avoid spiritually “hitting the piano”—to shrug off weights and sins that want to drain us of our spiritual stamina.

There is a race put before us. There are places to go, muscles to flex and injuries to push through. Races are not easy. Spiritual journeys are not always easy either. They can take all we can muster and more sometimes. We are called to be like Jesus. We become more like Jesus when we look to him and allow him to shape us. We become more like Jesus when we let him draw us out of our comfort zones into a deeper engagement with the race.

When things seem too much we can pray like Jesus did in Gethsemane (and long before we get overwhelmed we can pray “not my will but yours be done”). When resources seem so very limited or stretched beyond any reason we can trust God for provision (and long before we’re down to five loaves and two fish we can pray “God all of this is yours use it to your glory”). When the path we are on seems full of shame and rejection and pain we can abide in Jesus’ invitation to take up our crosses and follow (and long before things seem so dire we can pray “Draw me after you Lord, protect me from the world’s understanding of success and glory”).

It can be easy to grow weary. It can be easy to lose heart. When we have our eyes fixed squarely on ourselves it can be so very easy to despair. We are invited to put our eyes on Jesus. Through Jesus we find strength and stamina. Through Jesus we find courage and inspiration. Through Jesus we find life and joy even through the pianos and crosses and mortal moments of our journeys.

There is one sure way to jeopardize a footrace (cross-country or track) and that is by looking behind to see who might be catching up. We would do well to have an attitude like that of Paul in Philippians 3:13-16:

Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly all of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. Only let us hold fast to what we have attained. (NRSV)

God, we thank you for the great cloud of witnesses that have been and are and will be. Help us run the race faithfully with them. Protect us from all that would hinder and harm and distract. Help us keep our eyes firmly on our Lord Jesus and help others do the same. Amen.

e-vo for week of March 28

Dearest e-votees-

I was out of the office last week so this is getting posted a tad late--my apologies.

May your preparations for Holy Week be blessed.



12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!”

14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:

15 “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.

John 12:12-16, NRSV

This appointed text for Palm Sunday has connections with the Old Testament. “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” can be found in Psalm 118:26a. Verse 15 is a reference to Zechariah 9:9.

Jesus is making entry into Jerusalem for what will be the final week of his earthly, pre-resurrection existence. He knows what is going on. His disciples didn’t understand these things at first. They thought, perhaps, that he would unseat the Roman occupying forces. He didn’t. They won. In the short-term at least.

Jesus is making an entry into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey. He knows what is going on. His disciples didn’t understand these things at first. They thought, perhaps, that he was making a grand entrance as a king. He may well have been making sport of the way that Roman victorious soldiers came back from victory on horseback. The story goes that as the Roman generals processed triumphantly there was a servant nearby who whispered “Momento mori!” (something like “remember your mortality”) Perhaps Jesus was hearing “Momento mori!” in his head mitigating the adoring crowds. Friday wasn’t so very far away. Jesus was headed towards defeat. The powers of this world were not. In the short-term at least.

Jesus is making a public entry into Jerusalem and the crowds are completely behind him—in the short-term at least. His disciples and the other followers didn’t understand these things at first. They thought, perhaps, they were picking a victorious king and all would be resolved in their favor soon. They were stirred up and ready to follow him anywhere. They didn’t understand where anywhere was leading at first. They were “all in” with Jesus, at least on Sunday, you see, they didn’t understand what “all in” was going to look like on Friday at first. On Friday, Jesus dies alone. They scattered. In the short-term at least.

Jesus transcends the short-term. He was glorified (in John-speak) on the cross. He was glorified with the empty tomb. He was glorified as he returned to God.

When the people saw Jesus’ glory they realized there was more than just the short-term. They then were able to understand what had been written of him and what had been done to him.

The week of the Passion wasn’t what the people wanted or expected. But it happened. At the end, Jesus was glorified and he said with finality “It is finished.”

Because of this week, we are not finished. There is hope that transcends the short-term. Hope that sees God’s plan and God’s action at work. Hope that is victorious even over the grave. Thanks be to God!!!

As we enter Holy Week, dear God, help us “Momento mori!” and remember the Last Supper and remember the footwashing and remember the command to love one another and remember the agony of the cross and remember the emptiness of the tomb. Draw us into your glory and help us remember what has been written and what has been done—all to the glory of God.