Wednesday, June 27, 2012

e-vo for week of June 27

Dearest e-votees-

This week we will look at the appointed Old Testament text for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost.

May we be blessed as we remember the steadfast love of the Lord which never, never ceases.



22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." 25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. 26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. 27 It is good for one to bear the yoke in youth, 28 to sit alone in silence when the Lord has imposed it, 29 to put one's mouth to the dust (there may yet be hope), 30 to give one's cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults. 31 For the Lord will not reject forever. 32 Although he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; 33 for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.

Lamentations 3:22-33, NRSV

It would be nice if we were always assuredly aware of the steadfast love of the Lord. That no matter what came our way we would know without a flicker of a doubt that all is well and that we are absolutely secure.

But sometimes come the dark nights of the soul:


Sometimes we forget who it is who truly sustains us and gives us all that we need. We place our hope in illusory supports and even trust our own strength and conniving to dig us out. We get impatient waiting. We stubbornly hunker down in our despair. We find that even youthful strength and chutzpah is no match for the yokes that can crush down so persistently on us. We find ourselves face down in the dirt, smitten and scorned. We might wonder what we have done to cause God to set upon us and maybe even reject us now and forever.

Sometimes the dark nights come but God’s mercies come in the morning. God is faithful. God’s love is faithful. So much more than our failings and shortcomings is the persistent and gracious and restorative love of God.

Sometimes we forget whose we are and who sustains us. But God will never forget us. God continues to pour manna and loaves and fishes and daily bread and everything else we need to live and thrive for God knows that we don’t live by bread alone.

Sometimes we get restless and anxious and our reptilian brains kick in. The lamenter encourages us to wait and trust and to bear the things that have come our way. We are called, with God’s help, to transcend our fears. They will pass. God’s love and good favor will not.

My hope and prayer is that these words don’t speak to you so very much because you are palpably aware that you are good and secure in God’s love. If not, however, may these words offer comfort and hope. God loves you more than you can know. That love will never, never cease. Thanks be to God.

God, continue to sustain us with your steadfast love. We pray that you would shape us into vessels that anoint the hurting world around us with that very same steadfast love. Amen.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

e-vo for week of June 20

Dearest e-votees-

Our appointed psalm lesson for this week is Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32. It is certainly drawn upon to reinforce the appointed gospel lesson from Mark 4:35-41 where Jesus calms the storm.

One thing that is lost through this particular snipping of the pericope, however, is that we lose the repetition of the refrain found in verses 6, 13, 19 and 28: “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he [“delivered them” (6), “saved them” (13 & 19), “brought them out” (28)] from their distress;”

No matter the trouble whether in the desert places or in prisons or in sickness or in turbulent seas the response from God when the people cried out was always God rescuing them from their distress. Do you think God’s heart is still inclined to come to the aid of God’s people when they cry out in faith and hope?



1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble 3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

23 Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the mighty waters; 24 they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. 25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. 26 They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity; 27 they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits’ end. 28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; 29 he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. 30 Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. 31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. 32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32, NRSV

There are two strands of salvation.

There is the salvation of verses 1-3. God’s steadfast love which endures forever (even beyond the grave). God redeems us from all troubles, all trials and afflictions. The beggar Lazarus and the repentant thief (traditionally named Dysmas) and even [insert your name here] who struggled and was afflicted with [you know what goes here] are made whole and well and healed and will spend eternity as part of the great cloud of saints gathered from all compass points. The Great Commission has brought us and many to the font and to places of learning and discipleship and to life—life eternal. We know how this story ends and it will end well. God will bring to completion what God has begun.

There is also the salvation of verses 23-31 [and 4-9 and 10-16 and 17-22] in which God’s steadfast love breaks into situations that beset us in this life. Things come our way. We cry out to the Lord in our trouble and mercy comes. We cry out to the Lord in our trouble and healing comes. We cry out to the Lord in our trouble and freedom comes. We cry out to the Lord in our struggles and failings and temptations and healing comes. Things are made right. Storms are stilled. Demons are sent packing. We are found clothed and in our right minds wanting to walk with Jesus every day. People who knew us before might not even recognize us or may even be terrified at the holy transformation that has occurred in our lives.

But as real and true and awesome and necessary the second sort of salvation is we know that it is sometimes only a temporary reset. The other Lazarus was given a mulligan but he still got to go through death again. Sometimes the storms do us in. Sometimes a part of us dies from exposure in the desert. Sometimes we don’t get spared the consequences of our wrong-headed choices. Sometimes things come our way whether merited—think Adam and Eve; think Ananias and Sapphira—and sometimes when they are not—think Job (also part of this week’s appointed lessons); think the man born blind. Something will be our undoing. Whether a literal death or a figurative death something will trump our abilities to survive—maybe storms; maybe consequences of our sinfulness; maybe desert exposure; maybe chambers and prisons—we will not survive everything that besets us. Death and mortality are part of our fallen nature.

Our job is not to heap judgment on those who might succumb as Job’s “friends” did. All of us will find ourselves among the ashes with only potsherds to bring us comfort at some point. Death will come. Healing will not always be the end of our sicknesses in this world. We do well to offer comfort and care to all who suffer knowing that in caring for “the least of these” we care for Jesus. May God’s mercy and comfort send us such ministering angels when it is our time. And then we die.

But that first salvation trumps the failings of the second salvation. Death will not win. Jesus’ resurrection is the forerunner of our own resurrections. We will be with Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom. We will be with Jesus in Paradise with Dysmas. The storms will be ceased once and for all. There will be no more crying save, perhaps, tears of purest joy. Thanks be to God that we will be saved. And because of that we need not fear any storm, nor any cell, nor any illness, nor any desert, nor even any fiery furnace for “If our God who we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18, NRSV

Saving God, save us as you will in this life. Teach us to cry out to you and to wait for your salvation. You are good and faithful. And when we are not saved from our demise in this life raise us imperishable to take our place with you and the great cloud of witnesses for the truest and purest and most holy salvation you have established for your people. Amen.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

e-vo for week of June 13

Dearest e-votees,

Jesus uses figurative language to tease out the nuances of the kingdom of God. This week we have a couple parables about seeds and plant growth. May God bless us all as we receive and share seeds, allow them to germinate and celebrate the growth that only God can accomplish.



26 He also said, "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come." 30 He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade." 33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Mark 4:26-34, NRSV

At the beginning of the 4th chapter of Mark Jesus tells a parable about seeds being sowed. After a brief recap of Isaiah 6:9-10 and the purpose of parables Jesus interprets the parable of the sower. The varieties of soils and subsequent growth are different sorts of people and how the word takes root in their lives. The two parables of the seeds assigned for this coming Sunday follow on the heels of the parable of the sower and its interpretation.

The kingdom of God gets seed scattered into our lives. The seed is certainly the word. The seed may also be the witness of faithful lives of parents, baptismal sponsors, friends and perfect strangers. The seed may also be traditions and customs and practices of the faith communities to which we belong. The seed may also be our denominational connections with their particular theological sensibilities. The seed could be whatever God chooses to use to cause the kingdom of God to grow in our lives.

In the parable it is striking that the “someone” who is sowing has no idea how the seeds are sprouting and growing.

God plants seeds in our lives. We don’t know how they sprout or grow. There are some things we can do to that may facilitate the growth: regular watering (returning to and remembering our baptism), fertilizing (put the dead and decaying things into the mix so that God can bring new life out of them—repentance, confession, etc.) and even talking to the plant (drawing near life-giving conversations and teachings—Bible studies, sermons, mutual consolation of the saints). But ultimately, it is not about what we do or do not do but rather what God began and what God brings to completion.

A very favorite Bible verse to me is:

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.

Philippians 1:3-6, NRSV

God begins a good work and God brings it to completion.

God will also use us to sow seeds into the lives of others. We may well be oblivious to the sprouting and growing but they are certainly accomplishing what God intended -- see Isaiah 55:10-11. The point is not us or how well we cast the seed or how faithfully we watered it and fertilized and verbally coaxed it from the ground. The point is not even if we are aware of the growth going on or not. The point it God begins the work and God brings it to completion.

Lord of the harvest, continue to cast your seeds into our lives and grow them according to your plan. Use us as you wish to accomplish your plans and cast seeds in your name into the lives of others. Help us release our frets and concerns about the crop knowing that you created the seeds to do what you intended. You begin the work and you bring it to completion. In that be glorified.

Friday, June 8, 2012

e-vo for week of June 6

Dearest e-votees-

For this week’s reflection we are going to use the appointed psalm text for Sunday, Psalm 130.

May we all be blessed as we wait and trust and cry out to the Lord in whom we find love and power and redemption.



1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. 2 Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! 3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. 5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. 8 It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

Psalm 130, NRSV

“It is always darkest before the dawn” is a phrase that finds its truth not in the physics but in the mathematics of the soul. We know those dark places. This psalm gets at those places of the soul as well.

Nothing seems quite so dark and quite so lonely as just before the dawn. Sentries striving to keep a city safe know the vulnerabilities of the early morning. Verse 6 of the psalm echoes that longing for the safety and assurance of the morning light. When you get up early for work or a long road trip or from a restless night’s sleep camping there is a comfort and a beauty particular to the break of dawn. There is an assurance that things will become brighter and warmer and the threats—real or perceived—will slink back into the darkness.

The psalmist cries out of the depths. The depths evoke the tumultuous seas. The depths evoke the sense of being overwhelmed and consumed. The depths evoke the earth consuming the dead. In that place of panic and stress and mortality the psalmist cries out to the Lord. Would that we all had such faith.

The psalmist is palpably aware that none can stand in the presence of a holy God save by God’s forgiveness. Invoking grace at a desperate and hard moment of the soul the psalmist cries out to a loving and steadfast and powerful God who has redeemed and who will redeem again.

Jesus came into this world. He entered fully into its dark and painful and consuming and deadly depths. He came to bring love and healing and truth and compassion to a world that needed all but knew little. He came to redeem all including us. He is that bright morning star that soothes the dark nights that plague our souls.

As we steep ourselves in this psalm… As we linger in the darknesses that are part of our journey… As we wait for and pray and cry out to the Lord... May we all know the steadfast, sure and redeeming love of God that was so clearly shining through Jesus.

God, help us wait for you Help us trust in you. Help us never tire or neglect your steadfast, redeeming love. Help us grow in accompanying others in their dark places. Shine your love and your light through us. Make us more like Jesus all to your glory. Amen.