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.