Wednesday, January 30, 2013

e-vo for week of January 30

Dearest e-votees-

This week we’ll spend some time with our appointed psalm. Blessings, grace and joy to you.




1 In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. 2 In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me. 3 Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. 4 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel. 5 For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. 6 Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of you.

Psalm 71:1-6

Where do you find refuge when the world becomes too much? Do you lurk in a pair of headphones and drift away with the music? Do you throw yourself into exercise or into work where you can at least have some measure of accomplishment and sense of worth? Do you lose yourself in the alternate world of movies or TV or video games? Where do you find shelter when the throes of the world prove too much?

Where do you find hopes for deliverance for the things that could overwhelm you? Who do you call when you are imperiled and needing assistance? When the hand of the wicked is on the scruff of your neck or the grasp of the unjust and cruel is flailing at your heels who has got your back?

The psalmist would find balm and healing for all these woes in the Lord. Safety, comfort, deliverance, support and the like all come from the Lord. The Lord who has known us since birth (if not before) is with us—of what shall we be afraid?

Lord help us learn to lean on and trust in you. Help us find comfort, shelter, healing, support, deliverance and even our very lives in you. Grow us in our ability to praise you more and more continually. Amen.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

e-vo for week of January 23

Dearest e-votees-

The appointed Psalm for this coming Sunday is Psalm 19.

Psalm 19 is the source of one of my favorite passages of scripture. For this week we’ll hone in on just one verse of our appointed psalm.



Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 19:14, NRSV

This is a prayer. It is directed to one’s strength and one’s means of salvation.

This is a prayer about the outside life and the inside life.

We communicate in so many ways. Words are one of the most potent. What we say reflects how we feel and what we believe. People hear us and assess us by what we say and by what we don’t. Our words testify to what we believe about the world and about God if we are speaking particularly theological words or if we are not. The psalmist prays that the words of the mouth are found acceptable in the ears of the Lord. How mindful are we about whether are words bring glory and pleasure to our Lord?

What we say is one thing; what we think and feel can be quite another. We may parrot the proper words of faith but have a heart that is far from believing. We may pray for our enemies but inside deeply loathe them. We might sing songs of praise with fellow believers but deep down despise and ridicule them. The psalmist prays that the movements of the heart are found acceptable in the eyes of the Lord. How mindful are we about whether our interior life brings glory and pleasure to our Lord?

The psalmist’s Lord is a rock—a sure and certain place to find footing in a slippery world.

The psalmist’s Lord is a redeemer—a sure and certain place of salvation in a world that can be so very lost.

The psalmist’s Lord is our Lord. Jesus is our Rock and our Redeemer. We find sure footing and sure future in the care of Jesus.

When I am about to preach I almost always pray:

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.

Now you know why I keep praying this and where it comes from.

God, have your way in our lives—inside and out. Grow us in trusting you no matter how slippery or uncertain the way becomes. Amen.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

e-vo for week of January 16

Dearest e-votees-

I will be out of the office for a preaching conference until Thursday so this is an early dispatch of this week’s devotion.

May your week be blessed with epiphanies of God’s generosity, grace and goodness.



1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 4 And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come." 5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." 6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward." So they took it. 9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now." 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

John 2:1-11, NRSV

Jesus, mom and his disciples are at a wedding. The wine runs out and Mary decides to lean on Jesus to have him help.

Given that Jesus hasn’t performed any signs up until this point it is interesting to speculate what Mary exactly expected Jesus to do. Was this her timing or the timing of the Holy Spirit?

Jesus protests but steps into action. He tells the servants to fill jars with water. There are 6 which in total hold 120 to 180 gallons of water. To this day if you go to Jerusalem there are jars of this sort to be found. At one location called the “Burnt House”, which was torched during the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, you can see such jars up against the back wall. These were apparently used for some sort of ritual cleansing according to Jewish rites. The servants, unlike Jesus, spring into action without protest to either Mary or Jesus. Jesus tells them to take water to the chief steward. It is not clear whether the servants thought they were taking water or knew they were taking wine. Either way their lack of recorded reaction is noteworthy. Either case seems as it would arouse response.

The steward offers praises to the bridegroom for saving the choice wine until last. Jesus seems to lay low. Scripture is not clear about who knew when about Jesus’ miracle save that the disciples knew and believed him.

So many of the miracles and signs of Jesus that are recorded in scripture are centered around healing and deliverance. This miracle seems of a different sort. Jesus ensured that the celebration of this very human institution of a wedding went along without a hitch. Could it be that God is concerned not just with ultimate healings and deliverances but even with bringing joy and delight to others in very human circumstance? It seems to be so. Perhaps some of our views of Jesus as gaunt and stern and stoic could use some reimagining. Jesus had a reputation of being a drunkard and a glutton. Perhaps that was merely by association. Perhaps, thought, it reflected that he would, when appropriate, enter into human celebration.

For God so loved the world that God came into the world. God lived among God’s people for years (good times and bad; celebrations and times of grief) before facing the cross. God became one of us. And God continues to make God’s self known in water (turned to wine or not), bread, wine and in scripture. Our best efforts pale in comparison to the “good wine” that is yet to come. May we believe and drink deeply of all that God has in store for us.

God, thank you for gladdening the wedding at Cana. Gladden our days and bring us at last to that wedding feast that has no end. Amen.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

e-vo for week of January 9

Dearest e-votees-

This week God’s self-revelation in the season of Epiphany continues with the Baptism of Jesus.

Jesus approaches his cousin to be baptized.

People are watching John closely and beginning to wonder if he just might be the Messiah. John defers to another—one who baptizes with fire and the Holy Spirit.

All the people, including Jesus, are baptized. Jesus is one of us—he is pure human. He undergoes the rites and rituals of the people.

A voice comes from heaven and the Holy Spirit descends setting Jesus apart. He is not just one of us—he is pure God.

The interactions and the drama of flesh and divinity coming together are just getting started.



15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22, NRSV

Are we filled with expectation? Do we have questions in our hearts? Are we looking for the Messiah’s abiding presence and gracious actions in the world? Or has something else captured our eyes and our imaginations?

In his baptism Jesus has connected with us in his humanity. In our baptisms we are connected to Jesus. Humanity and divinity meet in Jesus. We people meet God in Jesus. Heaven is torn open and access to God through Christ is granted. Just as the sky is torn open at Jesus’ baptism (see Mark 1:10) so too will the Temple curtain be torn open at Jesus’ death (see Matthew 25:51; Mark 5:38; Luke 23:45). Jesus eradicates the barriers between God and us. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

If we truly understand this good news we will be filled with expectation and looking for the Messiah’s abiding presence and gracious actions in the world and in our very lives.

Jesus, you are God’s Son, our Beloved Savior, help us be well pleased with you and your ways. Amen.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

e-vo for week of January 2

Dearest e-votees-

This coming Sunday is the day of and the beginning of the season of Epiphany. The twelve days of Christmas will have run their course and now we turn our attention to God being made known to the world. The word epiphany comes from the Greek (“epi” = over or upon + “phaino” = shine) which literally means “shine upon” and figuratively means “to reveal”. [thanks “The Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament”]

This Sunday begins a season that includes the visit of the magi, Jesus’ baptism, the miracle of water to wine at Cana, Jesus proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor, Jesus’ self-revelations that infuriate the crowd and Jesus’ transfiguration. Each of these events reveal a different aspect of who this babe of Bethlehem has grown up to be.

May our eyes and our hearts be open as God seeks to reveal God’s self to us.



1 This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 for surely you have already heard of the commission of God's grace that was given me for you, 3 and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4 a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5 In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6 that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God's grace that was given me by the working of his power. 8 Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; 10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.

Ephesians 3:1-12, NRSV

Three things:

God’s message comes by revelation. We don’t puzzle it out in our own understanding. We cannot by our own reason or strength muster understanding (see Small Catechism on Holy Spirit). It is the Holy Spirit that calls, enlightens, gathers and sanctifies us and all believers. Faith comes as a gift. The gift must be revealed—unwrapped, if you will—by God’s ways in God’s timing for God’s glory. Epiphany is a day and a season of lingering in that divine unwrapping.

God’s message is for those who are outside the fold as well. Jesus was constantly engaging the fringe-dwellers: the lepers, the tax collectors, the sick, the possessed, the sinful, the gluttons and the drunkards. Paul, in reaching out to the Gentiles, was also engaging those on the fringe of the faith in which he was trained. The revelation isn’t an insider confirmation so much as a light to shine truth to all who would see. We know not to light up a house from under a bucket. The call is for all believers to let their lights so shine so that all who see might glorify the Father in heaven (see Matthew 5:15-16 and the baptismal liturgy).

God will use the “least of all the saints” to be agents of grace and to do good work. God will use the simplest of things: bread, oil, wine, water, fish and even us to make God to be revealed to the world. Through these elements and other simple means partnered with God’s grace and power even the rulers and authorities in heavenly places will have God revealed to them. As the Holy Spirit stirs faith we have boldness and confidence.

God, continue to reveal yourself to us. Unwrap your glory in our lives. Use us to reach out to those on the fringe letting our light shine for your glory. Help us not fixate on our lack and on our simplicity but on your will and on your supremacy. Reveal yourself to, in and through us. Amen.