Tuesday, March 26, 2013

e-vo for week of March 27

Dearest e-votees-

Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the book the Psalms (the psalter) the prayerbook of the Bible.

Jesus’ lingering death on the cross is certainly captured by Psalm 22—some of which Jesus prayed from the cross.

Easter is coming and it will be a wonderful time to recount God’s salvation and deliverance. But in order to get there we need to go by the place where Jesus experienced the exact opposite.



1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.

Psalm 22:1-2, NRSV

The prayers of a condemned man in the garden of Gethsemane ring in our presence. The prayers of God left to painfully lapse into death are here too. Jesus longs for the cup to pass but it does not. Jesus longs for the cup to pass by us—it does. But our salvation and the sparing of our souls comes at an incalculable cost. In the wounding we are made well. In the forsaking we are drawn into community with God. In the restless prayers of our tormented savior we find a deep, secure and profound rest for our weary souls.

6 But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads; 8 “Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”

Psalm 22:6-8, NRSV

Sticks and stones may break our bones. Being nailed to a stake evokes deep agony as well—even if none of his bones were broken. Words can certainly hurt profoundly too. Amidst the pain and shame of an exposed and dangling death our Lord endures the scorn and derision of the Romans, the religious leaders, one of the two thieves and whoever else Scripture may not have mentioned. The people mock Jesus with the promise he makes real for us. God delivers us. We are rescued. Because of Jesus we are made delightful to God—and we are delivered and rescued.

14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled; 17 I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.

Psalm 22:14-18, NRSV

Jesus thirsts and the soldiers mock him with sour vinegar on a sponge. Jesus feeds with the bread of life at Passover while he is soon starving to the point of bones being clearly visible. Jesus clothes in the righteousness of God while he is stripped bare for all to see and his wardrobe becomes spoils of a gambling distraction. Jesus is surrounded by boastful, leering and jeering crowds. His mortal life has gone dry and his body is out of kilter. In that death we find the waters of baptism and a body of believers that is being renewed.

29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him. 30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, 31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.

Psalm 22:29-31, NRSV

Then comes the good news of Easter (so much the richer for having lingered in the hunger) that all who sleep in the dust (read die) shall bow down and live for him. Deliverance is coming to those who were yet unborn (which included us). Future generations (which include us) are being told and being invited to tell others about the Lord. Jesus has indeed done what we cannot. We are being delivered.

Dear God, help us linger at Passover (with communion and footwashing and the Great Commandment), then at the foot of the cross, then at the mouth of the tomb. Make your prayers our prayers. Bring hope, faith and testimony to life in us. All to your glory. And then let us steep in Easter. Amen.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

e-vo for week of March 20

Dearest e-votees-

We are drawing near to the holiest week of the year. My hope and prayer would be that you would lean in as close as possible that you might more fully experience the passion, the emotions and the good news of the empty tomb.



At the Seder meal (the Passover meal) the youngest child who can read will ask “Why is this night different than any other night?” The rest of the night delicately unpacks that question with song and prayer, food which bears meaning and truth and storytelling.

We might ask just as easily “Why is this week—Holy Week—different than any other week?” We could then gather throughout the week with song and prayer, food which bears meaning and truth and storytelling. That is the plan. Will you take your place at the table?

People take potshots at those who don’t get to church so very often—CEOs (Christmas-Easter only), Chreasters, twice-a-years, etc. I will just say right now that perhaps they might come more often if we weren’t so quick to judge, scorn and ridicule. People have a sense of what others are thinking of them. Perhaps we’re part of the problem, just sayin…

There is something sorely lacking about only showing up for the high holy days or the holiday meals. Suppose you had a child who would hunker and sulk in their room and would only make an appearance at big family celebrations (Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, graduations, etc., etc.) That child would be all but cut off from the life of the family. So much would be missed between the feast days. Nothing wrong with being part of the feast days but it is not enough. The daily meals of meatloaf and mac-n-cheese and hamburger helper offer relational sustenance as well as meeting bodily needs. Being family is a regular, day-in, day-out, slogging, lingering, sometimes tedious thing. It is in the high holy days and the ordinary times that the family is truly cemented together.

Just as problematic as going from Christmas to Easter with nothing in between is the jump from the celebration of Palm Sunday to Easter with nothing in between. There are important more ordinary days that we need to experience as well to fully be family during Holy Week. Some have tried to do the whole Passion on Sunday morning. That is akin to eating Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter dinners in one sitting—not so digestible. What we need to do is take our place at the table as often as we can during Holy Week.

God will speak to you and through you on Palm Sunday. God will move you and move through you on Maundy Thursday. God’s sacrifice will call to you and draw you in on Good Friday. New Fire and baptisms and storytelling will reignite your faith on Easter Vigil. The empty tomb will seem that much emptier when you have lingered around the stories of how it got full.

Stephen Curtis Chapman has a marvelous lyric in Remember Your Chains: “There’s no one more grateful to sit at the table than the one who best remembers hunger’s pain.”

Come on Easter to take your rightful place at the feast. But allow God to prepare you by lingering in the Lenten fast first.

God, beckon us into your week. Help us linger with family. Steep us in the truth. Give us a bold “Alleluia!” on that holy Sunday morning. Amen.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

e-vo for week of March 13

Dearest e-votees-

This Sunday we have the appointed text of Mary of Bethany (Martha and Lazarus’ sister) anointing the feet of Jesus.

Did you ever think that this might have been where Jesus got the idea to wash his disciples feet? Hmmmm.



12 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

John 12:1-8, NRSV

We are situated in the Bible between the death and raising of Lazarus and Jesus washing the feet of his disciples on Maundy Thursday.

Death and the menial yet intimate task of washing feet seem to be common threads.

We are mortal. Lazarus reminds us of that. Jesus’ weeping reminds us that God cares for us and the pains we experience in our own mortality and in the loss of loved ones. Jesus is mortal. Mary’s anointing of Jesus reminds us of that. Mary cares for God and prepares him for his burial.

The world may see our devotion to God and mock and deride (as Judas did to Mary). Their motives, like those of Judas, will often be less than pure. God sides with Mary. We have that assurance as well.

Washing feet is a job of the lowly. Servants washed the feet of those coming into the house. Mary humbled herself by washing Jesus feet. As did the women (unnamed, could be Mary) at Simon the Leper’s house (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9) and Simon the Pharisee’s house (7:36-40). Apparently they were unaware how lowly washing someone’s feet was. Or, perhaps, they were quite aware and did it anyway. Jesus was clearly aware of the menial task he engaged while washing the feet of all the disciples including Simon the denier and Judas the betrayer. Jesus stooped low that we might be lifted high.

Jesus entered into death on the cross. He stooped completely into mortality and the wages of our sins that we might be made whole and well and new. We do always have the poor with us. A quick peek into the mirror confirms as much. Thanks be to God that Jesus makes us rich bestowing on us God’s favor and grace.

God, teach us to stoop in worship. Teach us to stoop in service. Teach us to draw near death and let you love us to life. Bring to death our old Adams and old Eves that the new ones might emerge. Amen.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

e-vo for week of March 6

Dearest e-votees-

This Sunday our text comes from what Lost and Found (www.speedwood.com) calls the “lost chapter of Luke”. Luke 15 has the story of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son—the latter being our appointed gospel text for this week.

May you be blessed as we consider this familiar yet potent story.



1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable:

11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father aid to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’ ”

Luke 15:1-3, 11-32, NRSV

We have been being part of a preaching effort in the Oregon Synod for Lent using some sermon outlines furnished by Bishop David Brauer-Rieke base on the book Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening by Diana Butler-Bass. One of the main premises of the book is that the church has been built on a BELIEVE then BEHAVE then BELONG basis. But now there is a major change going on in the church which is leading, instead, to BELONG then BEHAVE then BELIEVE.

In our story we have three characters. The prodigal son is one who BELIEVES he would be better off without his old man so he approaches him an asks for 1/3 of the estate (since his only brother who is older would be getting 2/3 eventually). The father gives him the money. The son BEHAVES with his newfound wealth. But in the process the son finds out that he doesn’t BELONG with his fair-weather friends nor really to his family, at least from his perspective.

The older son is one who BELIEVES that his is entitled to special treatment. Why should, he supposed, his brother get the party when he is the one who did the work? This belief affects how the older brother chooses to BEHAVE. The older brother is out pouting by the shed. He chooses to opt out of the family party so he doesn’t really BELONG either.

Both brothers find something lacking in BELIEVE then BEHAVE then BELONG. The Father role models a different way – BELONG then BEHAVE then BELIEF.

The Father runs up the driveway to find the prodigal on the way home and loves him. The son BELONGs because the Father says so—done deal. The Father BEHAVEs in a loving compassionate welcoming way shaped by the experience of his son belonging. In that experience of belonging and behaving you can bet the son learned some about how to BELIEVE.

God is up to something good in welcoming us to BELONG then helping us to shape how we BEHAVE and this helps us to BELIEVE. We are akin to the prodigal.

God, teach us your ways. Show us your patterns. Forgive our missteps. Thank you for making us to BELONG in community, shaping how we BEHAVE as a community and beckoning us to BELIEVE as community. Amen.