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.