Wednesday, December 10, 2014

e-vo for week of December 10

Dearest e-votees-

Our appointed gospel reading comes from the first chapter of John

For a second week our emphasis is on John the Baptist.



6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said,

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’”

as the prophet Isaiah said.

24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” 28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

John 1:6-8, 19-28, NRSV

John, like Mark last week, has none of the familiar Christmas birth details--no Mary, no Joseph, no census, no star, no shepherds, no angels, no wise men--none of that. There is the poetic and beautiful prologue of John which resonates so well with the beginning of Genesis. And then the text turns to John the Baptist:

The religious leaders come out and question John about who he is and why he is baptizing people.

He denies that he is the Messiah. He denies that he is Elijah (which the Messiah takes some issue with--see Matthew 11:11-15 and Matthew 17:9-13). He denies that he is the prophet. He self-identifies as the one Isaiah described as “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” John the Baptist finds his roots and grounding in the Old Testament prophesies. Jesus also finds his roots and grounding in the Old Testament prophesies--he opened his ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth in Luke 4:16 ff. which quotes our appointed Old Testament text from Isaiah. John understands the work to which he has been called. He is grounded and rooted and steps courageously into the call God has given him. Jesus calls him the greatest born among women (see Matthew 11:11a).

John also knows that he is not the end all. He is sent to point towards another. He directs people towards one whose sandal straps he isn't worthy to loose. He is helping usher people into the kingdom of heaven. Anyone, even the least, who makes it into the kingdom of heaven is greater than John (see Matthew 11:11b). John must become smaller in order that Christ must become greater. John understands the passing nature of the work to which he has been called. He is rooted and grounded in that calling so he can humbly fade to the background.

God, give us courage to step into the bold callings you have on our lives. God, give us humility to let ourselves fade to the back so that you and your plans might come to the fore. Amen.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

e-vo for week of December 3

Dearest e-votees-

Our appointed text for this coming Sunday is the first 8 verses of the Gospel of Mark.

It is interesting to see what level of detail Mark has about the birth and early childhood of Jesus.



1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Mark 1:1-8, NRSV

In Mark the beginning of the good news (aka the Gospel) of Jesus Christ is found in the prophecy in Isaiah. The fulfillment of the prophecy is found in the ministry of baptism of John at the river Jordan.

We have records in Mark of neither angels nor shepherds; neither betrothals nor virgin births; neither extraordinary star nor ensuing gift bearing wise men; neither divinely caused inability of speech nor divinely inspired uttered Magnificats; neither newborn king nor attempted assassination of said king. Mark offers none of the Nativity details of Matthew and Luke (which are often hopelessly conflated) but rather begins with the account of John baptizing.

John is dressed in the garment of a prophet and was proclaiming that people should repent and be washed in preparation for the one who was yet to come (no mention of the familial connection). John isn't worthy to even touch the shoestrings of the one who is coming (in contrast to that one washing the feet of all of the apostles if we fold the testimony of the 13th chapter of the Gospel of John into the story). There is one coming who is holy and to be treated with great respect. Yet this one to come puts aside this regard and takes his place among saints and sinners both, among religious leaders and tax collectors, at the basin with a towel and on the cross with a mocking crown. Jesus comes but not as John expects which explains his dispatch from prison in both Matthew and Luke asking if Jesus was really the one to come.

Jesus comes into this world but not as we'd expect. We need the Holy Spirit to help us see and believe in the message he bears. Thankfully Jesus gives the Holy Spirit away just as John gives away opportunities for repentance. As we linger in Advent waiting for Jesus to come into the manger liturgically and to usher in the full reign of God at the end of all time perhaps we might trust that God, the Holy Spirit, will continue to draw us into these holy promises.

God, blow your Holy Spirit into our waiting that we might have revelation and hope; power and wisdom; peace and joy. Give us courage and faith to trust that the good news that began in Jesus Christ will find its end there too all to your glory. Amen.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

e-vo for week of November 26

Dearest e-votees-

We are beginning the church year anew this year with the first Sunday of Advent. Our text calls us to wait and hope watchfully for Jesus' words to find fulfillment.

Maybe some of us could offer an "Amen!" to the slightly reworked lyrics of U2 "But I still haven't found what I'm waiting for." How long, Lord? How long?



[Jesus is speaking:] 24 “But in those days, after that suffering,

the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,
25 and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

Mark 13:24-37, NRSV

Jesus is teaching his disciples and telling them to wait expectantly. He encourages them to be steadfast and stable waiting for his words to be fulfilled which will never pass away unlike heaven and earth which are, albeit slowly, lapsing away.

It is hard to read/hear the words of Jesus and not expect something big to happen imminently. Surely the early church didn't expect us to be plugging away at things some two millennia later. No master goes on a journey and leaves the servants in charge for some 30 lifespans stacked end to end (or some 80 or so generations) expecting everyone to keep alert and watchful. Jesus told us to keep watching and waiting but the delayed gratification can be disheartening, can't it?

What Jesus says is that no one except the Father knows the day nor the hour of the final coming. We don't know, we can't know and we shouldn't know. This is God's wisdom which is so far beyond ours. But we clearly can't keep chugging Red Bulls and pinching ourselves to stay awake so we don't miss the event. We know well enough that if we are driving drowsy we should pull over for a power nap rather than cause something calamitous to happen. How much more should we, when tired, rest in Jesus? The point isn't that we should literally deprive ourselves of rest (Sabbath for instance) or sleep. Our bodies cannot bear such things. The point is that as a people we should live ready for our Lord and master to return.

This Sunday we begin our liturgical practice of remembering and preparing for Jesus' return (both in the manger and at the end of all times). It is not so much about us doing what is right or forcing ourselves to be ready but rather us resting in the words and promises of Jesus that never pass away. May we all be blessed as we gather and wait, worship and sing, pray and trust.

God, help us wait and trust in ways that please and delight you. Let us always invite and welcome others into your words and promises that never fade away. Amen.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

e-vo for week of November 19

Dearest e-votees-

This week's text is the familiar one of the sheep and the goats.

The thrust of this text is that when we go out into the world and serve those in need we experience and serve Jesus. When we neglect opportunities to serve those in need we miss experiencing and serving Jesus.



[Jesus is speaking:] 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:31-46, NRSV

We live in a world that is full of need. There are people lacking the basic necessities of life: food, potable water, clothing and housing.

We live in a world that is full of separation and broken relationships: estrangement, imprisonment, divorce, abandonment, outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth.

We live in a world where we see people full of need (at times in the mirror) and we see the separation between ourselves and others.

Jesus seems to assert that there is no neutral interaction. Either we are engaging those in need (and helping meet their needs) or we are not. Either we are working to breach the gap between ourselves and others or we are not.

What is so very stunning in this gospel text is that both the sheep (the attentive caring ones) and the goats (the inattentive dismissive ones) have the very same response: "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison?" The point is that we won't recognize Jesus and because of that respond. The point is that when we respond we will encounter Jesus (whether we recognize him or not).

I don't believe the point of this text is to terrify us that we might be a goat rather than a sheep. The point is to remind us that when we care for any and all we tend to the Lord of any and all. Jesus can be encountered most profoundly through others. ("where two or three are gathered in my name...") ("truly I tell you, just as you did to one of the least of these...") ("do not forsake meeting together as some are in the habit of doing...") God is expressed in the community of the Trinity. God comes to us most clearly in the context of community. When we forsake caring for community we risk neglecting God to our own detriment. Eternal life starts now and it is best discovered in the face of another.

God, help us step into caring for the needs and relational health of others. Help us to let others care for our needs and reach out to us with a hand of fellowship as well. As you do these things in us we will surely experience you. Amen.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

e-vos on hiatus

Dear e-votees-

This Sunday begins my 3 fortnight parental leave as we welcome our son into the world. I will not be posting e-vos during my absence. They will begin again upon my return in mid-November.

Prayers for a healthy and safe delivery would be appreciated.


e-vo for week of October 1

Dearest e-votees-

For this week we will look at the appointed lesson from Paul's letter to the church at Philippi.

The question comes down to really one choice: Do you want to rely on your own qualifications or would you rather rest in that which Christ has bought and secured through his death and resurrection on the cross?



If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:4b-14, NRSV

Saul was no slouch when it came to pedigree and credentials. He was in the right bloodline. He had abided the laws and expectations growing up and studying. He was eager, achieving and zealous. As far as one could be righteous and worthy Saul was. Perhaps were we to import him to modern day he would be an Eagle Scout, a 4.0+ over-achieving student, National Merit scholar with all the right connections and accomplishments to get into the elite schools and enter into a lucrative and successful career of his choosing. Saul knew what was good and right and theologically sound and was willing to do whatever was required to stamp out heresy up to serving as a coatrack during the stoning of Stephen. (see Acts 7:54-8:1)

But Jesus had a different plan for Saul (who became Paul, see Acts 13:9). Jesus knocked him off his high horse (literally) and called him to follow. After Paul was struck blind and healed (symbolic of his spiritual blindness, no doubt) Paul became a powerful leader and teacher in the church. Jesus got a hold of his life and began a good work in him.

As Paul sits in prison writing his letter to the Philippian church he tells them that his own curriculum vitae is like rubbish (very kind translation of the Greek word skubula which is better rendered "raw sewage" (perhaps upgraded to PG-13)) in comparison to the righteousness that comes from Christ. Paul basically wads up his credentials and his portfolio and tosses them into the fire so he can freely follow Christ without the constrictions of having to attain things on his own merit.

Paul says this in Philippians 1:3-6:

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

God has begun a good work in all of us, including Paul, and God is the one who will finish the work. We do well to keep our eyes on Jesus and not on our neighbor's stuff or test paper or achievements and certainly not spending too much time staring in the mirror. Christ is sufficient for us. Thanks be to God!!!

God, help run the race with Jesus as our focus and our pathway into the abundant life here and the heavenly call when this life is through. Amen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

e-vo for week of September 24

Dearest e-votees-

People never seem to quite catch on in scripture that engaging Jesus with attempts to entrap him never end well for the engagers.

I know we would never say this so directly but I wonder how often our subconscious says things "Who gave you authority over me?"



23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”

27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

Matthew 21:23-32, NRSV

The deal seems to be that when we set ourselves in a place to judge God or to judge others we set ourselves up for failure. We are ill-equipped to judge God (duh!). We are also ill-equipped to judge our sisters and brothers made in God's likeness. We are even, perhaps most particularly, ill-equipped to judge ourselves. We are biased beyond our awareness and therefore beyond our ability to fix ourselves. We neglect the log in our own eye as we seek to judge the speck in another's eye. We are quick to allow mitigating circumstances to account for our misdeeds and thunder down judgment on others. Woe are us.

When asked by Jesus the elders and chief priests couldn't even give a straight answer to Jesus. They colluded to refuse to grant even an inch to Jesus' authority. They chose to be mute rather than perhaps yield a bit of ground.

Jesus called out their unwillingness to yield. Then he tells the story of two brothers. Both answered without being entirely truthful. One, however, compounded his flawed answer with an unwillingness to repent. All of us are sinners. All of us live in a way that is less than fully truthful. Jesus calls us to repent. Jesus calls us to change our ways. Jesus invites all in. Some seem more willing or able to accept the invitation than others.

God, help us to know ourselves as we really are and to accept your invitation to repentance. Amen.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

e-vo for week of September 17

Dearest e-votees-

Our gospel lesson for this Sunday is one that really riles up our old Adam or our old Eve. "That's not fair! That's not right!" are the protestations.

To adapt C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe": "Fair?" said Mr. Beaver "Who said anything about fair? 'Course he isn't fair. But he's good. He's the king I tell you."



[Jesus speaking:] 1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4 and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5 When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6 And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Matthew 20:1-16, NRSV

Do you ever try to imagine this parable imported into modern times? I do.

A man has a major project on a tight timeline. He swings by Dunkin Donuts at daybreak for a coffee in his beat-up truck, gets a coffee, wipes the exhaustion out of his eyes and swings by Home Depot where the day laborers gather and picks up a load of folks willing to work for $100 for the day. He takes them to the work site and sets them to work. At 9:00 there is room for many more workers to he returns to Home Depot for another load of workers, another cup of coffee and makes the same pay arrangements. Midday the project is nowhere near completion so he swings back to Home Depot for another load with the same agreement. At 3:00 and 5:00 he makes two more runs. Come 6:00 it is quitting time. The man has his son-in-law and manager settle up. They line up the workers in order of when they started--5:00 p.m. back to 6:00 a.m. Each and every one of them is paid with a crisp, tax-free, off-the-books $100 bill. Grousing ensues.

On day two there are no laborers to be found until 5:00 p.m. The business collapses because an unsustainable employee compensation model but what a glorious lesson in grace for those with ears to hear and hearts to learn.

This story clearly isn't about good business practices. It is about how God gives us not what we deserve (what would be fair) but rather what reflects the gracious character of God (what would be grace). Think of the others stories in scripture that touch on these same themes: the grousing older brother while the wandering son has returned to be feted with fatted calf, robe and ring; the unforgiving slave who was pardoned of an unpayable debt only to throttle his colleague who was into him a few bills; the lavish response of one who knows how much she has truly been forgiven in the form of a footwashing and anointing. If we are able to realize how hungry, how unclean and how unworthy we are to receive a welcome into the banquet (and yet still think we are going) than how could we ever begrudge another who is no more unworthy than us?

The truth is that if we got what were fair we would not be safe. The hubris with which we demand our fair share is symptomatic of our illness. We are so full of ourselves and so empty of compassion to others. We need to look to the one who emptied himself on the cross and was full of compassion for others even for the ones who put him up on the cross. May we never look on the payment Christ made on our behalf with disdain and may we never regard our sisters and brothers with disdain as if they were no more or less in need of grace than we ourselves.

God, thank you for your grace. May we grow in our ability to share your grace with anyone and everyone we encounter. Amen.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

e-vo for week of September 10

Dearest e-votees-

This Sunday there are two sets of assigned readings for worship. One is for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost and the other is for Holy Cross Day.

For our devotional reflection we will use the epistle reading for Holy Cross Day.



18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18-24, NRSV

Paul seems to freely point out where others have their hangups with the cross.

For Jews:
a stumbling block

For Gentiles:

For those of us who have been saved (our redeemed selves, our new Adam or our new Eve):
the power of God

What is the cross for that part of us that resists God's work and God's salvation? (our sinful selves, our old Adam or our old Eve):

What about the cross scares us? What about the cross puts us off? What about the cross causes us to look down on it rather than look down from it? Jesus clearly calls us to take up our crosses and follow after him. Why do we resist? What do we value more about this world and our old life rather than the our renewed life in this world that God is renewing? If Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God than we would do well to put on the ways of Christ (isn't that what being a Christian means in some fashion?). When we lean into the foolishness of the cross and allow the stumbling block to knock us off of our cocksure ways we find freedom and salvation.

We don't have to figure it out. We don't need to walk without a misstep. We have been saved. Period. Done deal. When Jesus said "It is finished" on the cross he meant just that. The cross makes us holy. Thanks be to God.

God, shape our faiths by the shape of your saving work for us--a cross. Amen.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

e-vo for week of September 3

Dearest e-votees-

The translation of the source material for our gospel text renders the word "brother" as "member" in the NRSV (undoubtedly to be more gender inclusive). This didn't sit well with our text study group.

Jesus is speaking of sin intruding in a close relationship and offering a framework to engage that sin. We would do well to listen to it. We are in need of the loosing and binding that this practice offers.



[Jesus speaking] 15 “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Matthew 18:15-20, NRSV

When, not if, sin happens there is need for attention and reconciliation. At times we are the one perpetrating the sin. At times we the one on the receiving end of the sin. Most times we are both (simul peccator et peccatoree?). When there has been a breach what are we to do? Jesus has some keen insight for us.

We should engage honestly and with discreetly with the other party. Our hope is to hear and to listen. If that can be accomplished the breach can be patched and the relationship regained. Thanks be to God.

If that fails then it is time to bring in another party. A group of two to three who serve as a neutral third party, preferably, to listen and reflect from both sides. Two to three, I don't think coincidentally, were what was required in a legal proceeding to establish an accusation. If hearing and reconciliation can happen then the breach is patched and the relationship is regained. Thanks be to God.

The next step is to take the concern to the entire community. All are able to hear and participate with the hope of dealing with the sin in question and bringing about reconciliation. If that can be worked thanks be to God.

The seeming last step is to cast out the unrepentant one(s) as a Gentile or tax collector--an unholy outsider or a treacherous sellout. These folks were about as low as people got on the social scale. They were the unclean, the unwelcome and those outside God's promises.

But then we need to recall how Jesus spent his energies and his social engagements. Jesus seemed to befriend Gentiles and tax collectors. Jesus found a place among the unclean and the unwelcome and those outside of God's promises. Jesus immersed himself in the broken places of this world that healing might come to pass. Jesus placed himself among lepers and unclean and uncircumcised in order that they too might know restoration with God. Jesus pushed through every boundary that seemed to separate fallen, sinful humanity in order that all might be lifted up and restored and made new.

Jesus taught that, as much as it was up to us, we ought to be seeking reconciliation with those in the world and those in but not of the world. That is the point of this gospel teaching. We are to be about loosing and binding so that people might be set free and restored. Jesus lived this to his dying breath. When we gather in twos and threes and Bible studies and social gatherings and congregations and however else how could we strive to do any less?!?

God, send us to bind and loose all that we can from the grip of our broken relationships. We do this in the name of and for the glory of Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

e-vo for week of August 27

Dearest e-votees-

Our imaginations and our motivations are fundamentally different than those of God.

When we try to force God into boxes of our own making things go very badly. God will not be constrained by us. In our better moments we would never think to try to do so.



21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Matthew 16:21-28, NRSV

We dwell in a world that flies in the face of Jesus' call to deny ourselves and take up our crosses and follow after him.

Rather than the loosing and binding that Jesus empowered the church to do in last week's text we flip it all around.

We seek to bind Jesus. Or if not to bind him and least to constrain him and shape him to our way of thinking. Rather than let Jesus lead and have us follow faithfully we seek to get him to follow our lead. Peter was earnest and caring but couldn't have been more mistaken in trying to sway Jesus from his path towards the cross. Do you suppose in our own ways we, too, try to tame Jesus and his radical call to discipleship? And if so do you think his response to us would be any less stinging than "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."

We seek to loose ourselves. Or if not completely loose ourselves to at least to take great liberty with the freedoms we have in Christ. We buy into the lies that somehow our worth is determined by the quantity and quality of our possessions. We trust Madison Avenue when they say that "If you just buy this next thing you will find satisfaction and fulfillment." And then when we bite they say it again. And again. And again. The disastrous housing market collapse was in part driven by our insatiable drive to upgrade and upsize even when we our covetousness is unsustainable. We seek to gain the whole world (or at least a remarkably disproportionate share of it). And in the process our life dribbles away and we end up with an armful of death.

The bottom line is that when we see Jesus we see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. It is not fully realized yet but it is coming. It is better than any shiny bauble the world will ever dangle before us. It takes us to the cross and to the empty tomb. It is how Jesus chose to show God's love to the world and it is an honor and privilege to be counted worthy to follow in his footsteps. The glory of the kingdom of God looks nothing like the "glory" of the world. Isn't that glorious?!?

God, bind us to you and loose us from Satan's unholy grip. Amen.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

e-vo for week of August 20

Dearest e-votees-

As we make our way through this world we will hear all sorts of theories and assertions about who Jesus (aka "the Son of Man") is. What are some of the answers you have heard?

How might you answer if Jesus asked you "But who do you say that I am?"



13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Matthew 16:13-20, NRSV

Jesus is one of those people that many offer a detached admiration.

He certainly has some noble characteristics: kind, good teacher, loving, passionate, ethical, authoritative, prophetic, etc., etc. Those who knew of him likened him to great prophets of the past. There was something about Jesus that was captivating or winsome or apparent that drew adoration. If there was side to choose you would certainly want to be on Jesus' side of the line.

Jesus had some more edgy characteristics as well: provocative, radical, fiery, challenging, fiercely determined, headed towards a confrontation with the powers that be. Those who knew him likened him to those who had butted heads with the powers that be in days past. There was something to Jesus that was unwilling to abide the broken status quo. If there was a way to avoid collateral damage from the conflicts Jesus was provoking many would opt to take the safe way.

The truth is that the world is bound up. Jesus came to proclaim release for the prisoner (the ill, the possessed, the condemned thief on the cross, the woman taken in adultery, the outcast, etc., etc.). Jesus came to let loose God's mercy on the world. As followers of Jesus we are to be about the business of loosing those who are bound up.

The truth is that there are things loose in the world that need constraint. Jesus came to help take captive those things that are bringing death, judgment, haughtiness, arrogance, self-righteousness, separation, etc., etc. and to put them to death once and for all. Jesus came to bind up what should never have been free to prey on those made in God's image. As followers of Jesus we are to be about the business of binding that which rampantly deals death and separation from God.

We need to be mindful that what we think the kingdom of God should look like is often very different than how God thinks it should look. If we're not careful we'll find ourselves with the likes of Peter rebuking the course laid out for Jesus' followers and receiving a stinging "Get behind me Satan!" We can't imagine what God has in store. It must be revealed by God.

God, show us your way. Loose what must be loosed, bind what must be bound. Help us follow you, Messiah. Amen.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

e-vo for week of August 13

Dearest e-votees-

This week's gospel text are all about what goes in and out of mouths:

Foodstuffs of various sorts are not what defile a person according to Jesus (declaring all foods clean?!?)

The things that come out of our mouths (from our hearts): evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander are what defile us.

The imagery of who gets to eat the bread and who doesn't (dogs or children) in regards to healing.

The brilliant response from the Canaanite woman's mouth that leads to her daughter's healing.



10 Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” 12 Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” 13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” 15 But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” 16 Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19 For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”

21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Matthew 15:10-28, NRSV

What attention do we put into what goes into our mouths? What attentions do we put into that which comes out of our mouths?

I know many who will put whatever they fancy in their mouths. They may be looking for a savory thrill. They may be looking to cope with a hurting place in their life. They may be looking for bread to get by to the next meal. They may be looking for the latest foodie innovation. Truth be told, I'm not very discerning about what I put into my mouth. Call me a glutton or call me lazy, just don't call me late to the buffet. I know that's not the best approach to life but it is how I do. There is much room for improvement.

I know many who will let whatever they fancy fly out of their mouths. They may be looking to provide a conversational thrill to their listeners (and perhaps willing to be unsavory to catch attention above all the noise). They may be looking to mask their inner hurts by being clever or loud and boisterous on the outside. Sometimes they are saying whatever they can to hustle up a next meal. Sometimes they are striving to say something in a way that is has never been articulated before. Truth be told I am, at times, even less discerning about what comes out of my mouth. Call me a blowhard or call me insensitive, just make sure I get my turn at the microphone. I know that's not always the best approach to life but it is how I do. There is room for much improvement.

The truth is we need to feed on Jesus--the bread of life. His words bring life and healing. We need to learn to be quiet and ponder these things in our hearts like Mary did. Jesus comes and makes us clean. What can we add to that except a grateful "Amen!" If our speaking is troublesome then perhaps we could learn to dwell more in the gracious silence. Perhaps as we take Jesus into our bodies the next time we have communion we can marvel at that which brings healing and cleansing and new starts. Jesus is the bread that truly leads to eternal life. Amen.

God, help us let you be Lord of our words and our mouths. Draw us to be people of praise and meditative gratitude. Amen.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

e-vo for week of August 6

Dearest e-votees-

This week's gospel text is the familiar one of Peter walking on water.

Much is made of the fact that as long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus he could do anything.

The truth is it was a crazy request from Peter and there was no way he could ever permanently fix his gaze on Jesus.

It is more interesting to me to think about why Jesus granted this request from Peter in the first place.



22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14:22-33, NRSV

This account of Peter and Jesus is just strange. First off, Jesus provoked the encounter by walking by them on the sea. Jesus could have walked around them out of sight or swam under them or flew over them. There are as many ways as you can imagine for Jesus to get where he was going undetected. The fact that he chose to walk within eyesight of the apostles is intriguing.

Generally when people see someone as a ghost there is offered some proof that they are, indeed, not a ghost. They might eat some food. They might invite someone to touch their wounds. There is some means of demonstrating that they are not a ghost.

In this account Peter blurts out that if it is truly Jesus he should be invited out on the water. This is a silly test. If the one Peter is talking to is not Jesus this could end very badly with him plummeting into the sea. As it is it didn't end too well for Peter anyway.

Jesus says to "Come!" and Peter makes it for a little while--and then he plummets into the sea. This is no surprise to those of us who know Peter. And this was surely no surprise to Jesus who intimately knows Peter. The only question left in my mind is why did Jesus provoke and let play out this doomed enterprise?

It reminds me of a child threatening to run away. They are looking to get the parent's to react and to try to stop them. The parents who help the child pack their bundle of possessions and send them on their way are calling the bluff of their child. They know full well where their child is headed and no permanent harm will come to pass. Jesus is playing the part of the parent. Peter is, in an award worthy fashion, playing the role of the child preparing to run away. Jesus plays along to allow Peter to learn a lesson.

The lesson is not about keeping eyes on Jesus through thick and thin that failure may never occur. The lesson is that Peter has no business being out on the water. But even in the midst of Peter's reckless and hazardous decisions Jesus brings salvation into play. When all was said and done Peter was soaking wet. Jesus was dry and in the boat. The disciples were focussing on the true source of power and salvation.

I wonder what silly and reckless things we will choose to engage in this week. May Jesus keep us safe from our ill-conceived adventures. May all the glory and honor be given to God as we dry off from our misadventures.

God, help us trust you to do what we cannot and should not. And help us to rest in your gracious and saving ways. Amen.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

e-vo for week of July 30

Dearest e-votees-

This week's gospel text is one of the 4 appearances of the feeding of the 5,000 (and then some). The other 3 can be found at Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:1-15. This is the only miracle that Jesus performs that appears in all 4 canonical gospels. Perhaps we would do well to pay attention to this uniquely honored occurrence.



13 Now when Jesus heard [about the beheading of John the Baptist as recorded in Matthew 14:1-12 and Mark 6:14-29], he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Matthew 14:13-21, NRSV

Jesus had every right and reason to be aloof and broody. His cousin had become a ghastly party favor in response to a sordid dance on the king's behalf. John said that he must decrease in order that Christ might increase. I wonder if he knew he would decrease so very much. John's disciples bear the news to Jesus. Jesus bears the news on his heart. By all rights he should have some time to collect himself, to rage, to grieve and to manage his good-byes.

But the crowd came looking for Jesus. They were hungry spiritually and by the end of the day hungry in body as well. No one could have blamed Jesus if he excused himself or just phoned it in that day but he didn't. He was stirred with compassion for the people. Jesus knew that he must increase in order to give the people what is necessary. He knew about the cross. I wonder if he knew how much might be required of him so soon after his cousin and forerunner's death.

John 6:9 tells us the source of the foodstuffs was a little boy's lunch. But, really, how far could two fish and five loaves go among five thousand men and the accompanying women and the accompanying children? Apparently it could go pretty far. After feeding everyone until the point of full the twelve disciples went out among the people and collected twelves basketfuls of leftovers. I imagine each of them going a different way with his own basket collecting hunks of fish and bits of bread. Each fills his basket to the point of overfilling. Surely they must be asking "Where in the world did all this come from? The kids' lunch wouldn't even cover the bottom of my basket!"

God sated the spiritual hunger of the people with authoritative teaching. God sated the physical hunger of the people with food shared with blessing and breaking and giving (sound familiar?). We gather in worship to be fed spiritually with scripture and graciously with bread and wine that is God's body and blood. God is still in the business of meeting our needs. And there is always more left over for others.

God, help us bear food--spiritual and physical--out to a hungry, hungry world. Amen.

Friday, July 25, 2014

e-vo for week of July 23

Dearest e-votees-

This week we'll look at a snippet of our assigned epistle text.



38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39, NRSV

This is an elegantly stated and expansive statement by Paul. We cannot be separated from the love of Christ Jesus. Whether we live or whether we die we are the Lord's (see Romans 14:8). Nothing that is happening now (things present) nor anything that will happen (things to come) will be able to wrest us away from God's love. No physical dimension nor principality will be able to drive a wedge between us and God's love. Nothing, nothing, nothing can separate us from God's love.

But do we act in accord with this deep and abiding promise?!?

Do we think that somehow we haven't merited God's love? Do we think that we have done something so profoundly sinful or selfish or evil that God can no longer love us? Have we said something (blasphemy?) or not said something (been ashamed of Jesus?) so that we think God will no longer speak in our favor? Have we let worries of this world and the lure of wealth become a wedge between us and God? Perhaps we have been munching grass bit by bit until we find ourselves far from the other 99 in the flock and don't know how to get back. Have we rashly demanded things as if God was dead, squandered them and found ourselves hungry, empty and cut off? Surely there are things we can do that make God love us less--yes?!?

Paul's focus is not on our worthiness. Paul's focus is not on us. Paul's focus is on God's love that is insurmountable. When we focus on ourselves and our own worthiness we are bereft of hope. When we focus on God's love there is hope in spades. What is impossible for people (remember that camel through the eye of the needle?) is child's play for God. There is indeed hope and love for us. And, beyond that, for all who we would deem unlovable and irredeemable. Thanks be to God.

God, let us bask in your love. Amen.

Friday, July 18, 2014

e-vo for week of July 16

Dearest e-votees-

This week's gospel text reminds us that sorting out what is from God and what is not is treacherous work.

Beyond that, it isn't our work. Thanks be to God!



24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

Matthew 13:224-30, 36-43, NRSV

Sometimes we are quick to read this parable of the wheat and the tares as people. When we do this we fall into a binary coarse sorting of all of humanity. Everyone is either good or bad, wheat or tare, saint or sinner, shiny righteous people or hellfire bound sinful people. When we are in this mode we look at others and ask ourselves "Hmmmm. Wheat or tare?" Which seems to fly in the face of the parable saying in so doing we may inadvertently yank out a wheat along with the tares. On perhaps more introspective days we might gaze into the mirror and ask ourselves "Hmmmm. Wheat or tare?" Which puts us back in the garden wanting to have the knowledge of good and evil. When we put ourselves in the place of judging (ourselves or others) we usurp God's place. This is a tale as old as time and it does not have a happily ever after ending.

The truth is that wheat and tares go much deeper than individuals being sorted between the keep and burn bins. There is good seed that has been sowed in us and in others: God's word (as in last week's gospel lesson), promises we are bathed in at baptism, promises that are grafted into our bodies at communion, promises and exhortations that come to us in myriad form through others fashioned in the image of God. These seeds with God's care and miraculous growth bring about wheat into the lives of people. New Adam and New Eve are the fruit of these seeds growing as they should.

Amidst these seeds has been sown weeds. The enemies of God throw these seeds into our lives as well. When we choose to set ourselves up in places fit only for God we sow these seeds in our lives and others. When we try to save ourselves we sow those seeds. When we presume we are on solid ground to save or condemn others we sow those seeds. The lies that spew out of us and into us from others sow those seeds. These seeds with dirt and death of fallen humanity and devilish fertilization bring tares into the lives of people. Old Adam and Old Eve are the fruits of these seeds growing in our lives. They can become hopelessly entangled with what God intended.

We can't and therefore shouldn't even try to pull out the weeds in our own lives or that of others. That is God's work. God's wisdom says let God in God's timing and in God's way deal with tares in our lives. We have seen how this looks clearly on the cross. We may catch glimpses of it as we make our way through this world. We will see it again at the time of the great harvest. In the mean time we can lean hard on the promises of God which never fail to bring forth harvest.

God, give us peace, patience and grace to trust in your wisdom and your grace. You sow good seeds into our lives and know better than we ever could how to best tend to the tares. Teach us to trust you. Give us ears to listen. Amen.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

e-vo for week of July 9

Dearest e-votees-

This week's Old Testament text offers a deep and abiding promise about God's words.



10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12 For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

Isaiah 55:10-13, NRSV

When God's word goes forth it does what it needs to do. There is no condition in this text about how learned or clever the bearer of God's word is. There isn't a stipulation that the hearer of God's word must be of a certain alertness or theological proficiency. The power is in the word. It is destined for success.

How is it that God's word goes forth? Certainly in preaching and devotions God's word is carried into the lives of some. In memory work and in scripture-shaped prayers God's word is sent forth for a purpose. In liturgies and in lyrics that are framed with scripture God's word is proclaimed. Any action done in the name of Christ from one seeking to live a godly life according to scripture will indeed be sending God's word into a world that needs so very much to hear from God.

The thing is try as we might -- and our Old Adams and Old Eves do try from time to time -- we can't stop God's word from accomplishing its purpose any more than we can stop hurricanes and blizzards. Once the heavens have released those elements all we can do is wait to see what consequence they will have in our lives. If we don't want scripture to take its toll on our lives we should get far, far away "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12, NIV). God's word does indeed cut into us but like a well trained surgeon bringing healing and wholeness.

God's purpose is that all might love God fully and love others fully. In such life all of the Law and the Prophets find fulfillment.

God, continue to send your abiding and in-dwelling word into our lives. Accomplish your purpose. Help us go out into the world with joy know that you lead us back to you in peace. Amen.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

e-vo for week of July 2

Dearest e-votees-

This week's epistle text addresses the struggles we have to use the freedoms we have in Christ well.

The freedoms we have in this country and that were won on the cross came with an excruciating cost. How we use those freedoms can deeply honor that price or cheapen them.



[Paul writing:] 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

Romans 7:15-20, NRSV

God calls us in the circumstance we are. We don't need to rise up to God on our own power (as if we could). God comes to us. That is what Jesus' incarnation is all about. The shepherd leaves the 99 and goes to the sheep. It is not about the sheep coming to its senses and returning to the flock. Even when we get close to that in scripture (son returning after squandering his share of dad's estate) it is the God figure (the father) who runs and makes things right. God always comes to us. That is good news. Let's not sully it by trying to add our meager efforts.

In response we are invited, with God's help, to move away from the sin that entangles us (and even dwells in us) into the place where God would rather have us be. But, as Paul says, this is excruciating. It takes a cross to deal with sin. The call on us is to take up our crosses and follow after Jesus. Perhaps that is some of the mysterious participating in the sufferings of Christ that Paul talks about in his letters.

As we gather with family and friends in worship and around patriotic displays in the days ahead may we all be mindful of the crosses that others have borne in order to secure our freedom. May we all be mindful that we are also called to take up our cross. As we have an abundance of choices as to what to do with our freedom may we, as God empowers us, follow after our Lord Jesus and seek to be like our master and teacher.

God, we are sinners without a prayer save what Jesus did. Help us abide in that freedom. Dwell in us and stir us to do that which is pleasing to you. Amen.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

e-vo for week of June 25

Dearest e-votees-

Welcomes matter.

Who we welcome has consequences.

It is instructive to see who welcomes us.

We should pay close attention to welcoming.



[Jesus speaking:] 40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

Matthew 10:40-42, NRSV

Jesus talking to his disciples says that, because of their connection to Jesus, whoever welcomes them welcomes Jesus. And because of Jesus' connection with God the Father whoever welcomes him welcomes God the Father. If we are Jesus disciples then we too are connected as the apostles were. Whoever welcomes us welcomes Jesus and God the Father. We are conduits, if you will, of a divine welcome.

When we welcome prophets as a prophet there is a prophet's reward to be had. When we welcome a righteous person as a righteous person there is a reward to be had. Even in meeting basic needs of slaking thirst and offering hospitality there is a reward to be had.

It seems that Jesus is suggesting that in supporting others as they live into their vocations--callings from God--that we in a real sense participate in their work and are included in the consequences that come their way because of that work. God has a calling on our lives as well. As we grow in those there are consequences of that work. Those who love us and welcome us and support us become a part of living out the calling and into the consequences as well. Who supports you in the calling that God has placed on your life? You would do well to share with them the reward that is yours.

There is a song by Ray Boltz that is simply called Thank You. The gist of the song is that because of this person in heaven who had lived out various callings (Sunday School teacher, supporter of missions, etc., etc.) many had been welcomed into the kingdom of heaven. They received the consequences of the gospel -- salvation in the name of Jesus. And they shared part of their reward with this kind and generous person. The truest reward comes not in the form of money nor fame nor anything else of this world. The truest reward comes in changed lives that are drawn into the glorious good news of the gospel. May our lives be so full of welcoming and being welcomed that our lives and those around us are changed for the better forever.

God, help us welcome all because all are made in your image. Help us share whatever rewards you may send our way. Thank you, Jesus, we are lives that are changed. We are so glad You came. Amen.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

e-vo for week of June 18

Dearest e-votees-

When we give a gift we are yielding control to what becomes of it. The recipient gains control or liberty with said gift.

When God gives us salvation by grace God yields a measure of control as well. Grace is ours. What we do with that grace is our choice.

Paul has a few things to say about how we might employ the freedom from sin we have in Christ.



1 Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in the newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:1b-11, NRSV

When we are baptized we are connected with Jesus' death. As he died so we die too. As the consequences of sin exacted his life from him the power of sin is put to death in our lives. Because Jesus was bound, beaten and killed we are freed, healed and born anew. When death occurs sin loses its grip. When Jesus died sin could harm him no more. When we are baptized into Christ we are joined into his death and, therefore, into the freedom from the ultimate consequences of sin.

When we are baptized we are connected with Jesus' resurrection. As he lived so we live too. The power of God that worked his resurrection is at work in us too. Because death could not hold Jesus down we will not be forever weighed down with mortality either. When new life occurs sin loses its grip. When Jesus rose from the dead sin could harm him no more. When we are baptized into Christ we are joined into his resurrection and, therefore, into the freedom from the ultimate consequences of death.

God, because Jesus lives we live too. Help us enjoy and glorify you in the freedom have in Christ. Your grace is enough for us. Amen.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

e-vo for week of June 11

Dearest e-votees-

This coming Sunday is the day of the church year where we emphasize the Holy Trinity.

God lives in the community of the Trinity and God is made known to us in the Trinity.

May God bless us as we gather in community and as we make room for others in our communities as well.



11 Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13, NRSV

Verse 13 of our appointed epistle lesson is a familiar one. It is featured prominently in many of our liturgical settings. It is one of the relatively few places in scripture where all three persons of the Holy Trinity are mentioned in one breath. It is often one of the very first things we hear when we gather for worship.

We begin with grace which we experience through Jesus. We cannot merit God's favor. We can't do enough to earn God's love. On our own and left to our own devices we fail to live the holiness that is needed. So God comes to us. Jesus enters into our broken places and makes right what we cannot. Jesus brings salvation as pure gift. Because it is gift we cannot lose it by not living holy enough. God's grace is for us and for all. All we can do is accept that gift and offer it to others which is exactly what this invocation in verse 13 does.

We continue on to God's love. God has so many superlative traits but by far the most important is love. God so loved the world that Jesus was sent to us. God loves us and loves all. It is God's nature to love and to be in relationship. The Trinity is a relational reality. We are invited into that reality. There is a well-known icon of the visitors who came to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre and announced that Sarah was to have a child.

You can see it at:

Some see in this icon the Trinity. And in that Trinity and how they are sitting they see an invitation for us to take a place at the table with the three already seated. This is a loving invitation from a loving God. God's love is for us and for all. All we can do is accept that gift and offer to others which is exactly what this invocation in verse 13 does.

We finish this verse with the invitation into communion or fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Because God comes to us through grace we are assured of our acceptance. Because God comes to us in love we receive God's unwavering care. Because we are loved and accepted we can grow in community with God. We are ushered into the divine presence and community. God's community is extended to us and to all. All we can do is enter into that community and extend that invitation to others which is exactly what this invocation in verse 13 does.

God says to us "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you." God grant us ears and hearts to hear and to accept that incredible invocation. Amen.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

e-vo for week of June 4

Dearest e-votees-

This coming Sunday is the day of Pentecost. It is an ancient festival that took on new meaning when the Holy Spirit came into the church deeply and broadly as recounted in Acts 2. We will look at the appointed text from 1 Corinthians as our devotional focus for this week.


------------ one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13, NRSV

It is the breath of God (the Spirit) that brings life to the dust in the garden of Eden and life to the dusty bones of Ezekiel's vision. The form and the pieces of the body might be present but it is the divine indwelling that animates us most fully into that divine image in which we were created. When we regard others as anything less than loved by God and formed in God's image we diminish God's body. When we disregard the beauty and the care that God has instilled into us we diminish God's body. When we try to show how our gifts or contributions are more valuable than those of others we diminish God's body.

The body needs all of its parts to exist and function and most fully convey the breadth of life God has given. The church--the community of saints--the spiritual body of Christ needs all of its parts to exist and to convey most fully the breadth of God's love that is for the world. It takes all gifts and passions, all perspectives and sensitivities, all stories and hoped-for futures in order to more fully bear the fullness of Christ.

The Spirit is for us and for all. We should drink of it deeply and invite others to do the same. This isn't to say that all things are equally good or acceptable to God. This isn't to say that we should be whoever our Old Adams and Old Eves imagine without restraint. This is saying that we should allow others to discern about and grow into God as they are moved by the Holy Spirit and we should do the same. We should take the plank out of our own spiritual eyes and let God remove they specks from theirs. If we know anything about God and the Holy Spirit we should know that God can make clear what God needs to say to individuals and communities when God so chooses.

God, blow into our lives again and again. Give us grace to see your body as lacking without others made in your image. Particularly stir us to reach out to those who perplex, annoy and scare us most. What we are not that they are surely conveys some of your majesty. Amen.

Friday, May 30, 2014

e-vo for week of May 28

Dearest e-votees-

This Thursday (May 29) is the day that the church celebrates Christ's ascension. It is the 40th day after the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus -- Easter. As mentioned in Acts 1:3 below Jesus appeared for 40 days with convincing proofs of his resurrection as well as speaking of the kingdom of God.

It takes some time and some on-going work of God for the reality of the life-changing resurrection to sink in with Jesus' disciples. We are no different.

May we all be open to however God chooses to reveal God's self to us. And may we be open to the requisite time and moving of God to make that revelation take hold in our lives. And may we be open to however God might reveal God's self through our own lives and witness.



1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Acts 1:1-11, NRSV

We use terms like "gravity of the situation" or "being grounded" as ways of acknowledging the importance of urgent, foundational truths. We might even speak of them with a certain gravitas. These truths can weigh us down, keep us from moving freely and responsively. We might even go a stow ourselves away in a safe place behind locked doors if things weigh on us too heavily. Fears, responsibilities and unwanted conflicts can beat us down into the pit.

But Jesus wouldn't stay in the pit. Jesus rose from the dead--overwhelming the gravity of the Good Friday situation. He came into the locked rooms and the cowering hearts and lingered with his followers for 40 days. He lifted theirs spirits and raised up truths into their ears. As if to punctuate all of this anti-gravitational behavior he ascended out of there sight. In Luke's parallel account in his gospel Jesus is blessing the disciples as he ascends.

The disciples are staring up into heaven. Perhaps they are in awe. Perhaps they are already starting to droop back into fear now that Jesus has left them yet again. Maybe Peter is about to suggest they build some shelters or something. But two visitors interrupt their stunned, upturned, gaping poses. The disciples are directed to go to where Jesus will meet them. They are promised that they will continue to experience Jesus.

Sisters and brothers, we are sent too. Jesus sends us into all the world (Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth) to share the same sorts of truths he did for 40 days after rising from the dead. We don't go alone but Jesus goes in us and before us. In a week we'll be liturgically reminded that the Holy Spirit dwells in us and moves in us as well. We will, of course, at times get weighed down, discouraged and perhaps intimidated by all these things and the challenges of living out the call. We might even find ourselves stunned, gaping upward but we can find encouragement in the words of the two visitors. But the good news is that God has done the work and is doing the work and will lift us when we fall and call us back when we gape. May our spirits be raised and our testimonies too. Amen.

God, continue to reveal yourself to us that you might not be unknown in our lives. Use us to reveal you to the world we inhabit. Amen.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

e-vo for week of May 21

Dearest e-votees-

This coming Sunday is Easter 6. We have jumped 10 chapters in Acts from last week's reading and what a difference we see in Paul (our approving coat rack formerly named as Saul in last week's reading).



22 Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23 For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,

‘For we too are his offspring.’

29 Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30 While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Acts 17:22-31, NRSV

Karl Barth is quoted as saying you should preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. Paul had neither the Bible as we know it (he was still in the process of writing his portions) nor did he have a newspaper as we know it (which future generations might soon not have as well). But he did have the truth revealed to him by God (like the Bible) and an understanding of the context of the culture and the current events (like the newspaper).

Paul has an incredibly engaging hook for his message to the Athenians. As he wandered about he found an altar to an unknown god. He saw in the culture a desire to worship but perhaps a lack of clarity as to the best recipient of that worship. Starting from their self-expressed needs and desires he offers them Jesus.

All of us live in a world where people are searching. They desire to attach their worship and allegiance but often have difficulty discerning who or what is reliable and worthy. We can find ways to point people to Jesus as Paul did. We can proclaim the resurrection as Paul did. We can live lives of witness and service as God did. We can trust that God's grace is sufficient for us and that God's power is made perfect in weakness as was revealed to Paul.

We should seek to be students of our culture and allow scripture to shape us. With the Bible in one hand and whatever news conduit in the other and the indwelling Holy Spirit we can give very good news to a world that is longing to hear it.

God, continue to reveal yourself to us that you might not be unknown in our lives. Use us to reveal you to the world we inhabit. Amen.

e-vo for week of May 14

Dearest e-votees-

This coming Sunday is Easter 5. We have the death of Stephen and our earliest introduction in scripture to Saul (aka Paul).



55 But filled with the Holy Spirit, [Stephen] gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57 But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.
Acts 7:55-60, NRSV

Stephen inhabits only two chapters of our scriptures. We meet him in chapter 6 of Acts as he is one of the seven set aside to help administer food distribution to the widows both Jewish (aka Hebrews) and gentile (aka Hellenists, that is Greeks). The apostles say that it is not right for them to neglect the word of God to wait on tables so Stephen and six others are tasked with overseeing and resolving this benevolent feeding program.

Stephen apparently shared the view that it was necessary to tend to the word of God and giving testimony rather than spend all of his time waiting on tables. Stephen does works and signs that draw attention of others (much like Jesus). He has blasphemy charges leveled against him (much like Jesus). He teaches with words, wisdom and authority that cannot be thwarted by his accusers (much like Jesus). Finally his opponents resort to killing him to silence his witness (much like Jesus). In the midst of his death he prays for those who have mortally wounded him (much like Jesus).

Saul (later to become Paul) is clearly staked out as one who is opposed to Stephen and the message he was proclaiming. In the verses immediately following this lesson Saul approves of the killing of Stephen and begins to inflict great persecution on the early church.

Some things for us to ponder:

If we faithfully serve Jesus we might find ourselves in harm's way. May we be faithful should that happen.

The best and most faithful response is one of grace and forgiveness for those who may persecute us. We would find ourselves in the good company of Jesus and Stephen.

Even our vilest enemies aren't beyond God's grace and salvation. God doesn't write them off easily, nor should we.

God, give us courage and faith to face whatever comes our way. Help us love and forgive our enemies. Teach us to pray for those who persecute us or seem beyond your redemption. Whether we live or whether we die, Lord Jesus, receive and protect our spirit. Amen.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

e-vo for week of May 7

Dearest e-votees-

This coming Sunday is Easter 4 (which is also called "Good Shepherd" Sunday by some). It is also the day in which we commemorate mothers. One of the places we can surely catch a glimpse of long-suffering love is in the love of a mother for her child.



19 For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. 20 If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.

22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

23 When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

1 Peter 2:19-25, NRSV

The joy of being a parent is one of the most exquisite joys I have known. But anything that can bring exquisite joy can also bring about heart-rending wounds as well. Those who are closest to us have the capability to wound us most deeply.

Motherhood begins in suffering and leaves its wounds and scars along the way. Being a mother, from my perspective, is one of the most intimate, deeply-knitted bonds there is. Those closest to us have the capability to wound us most deeply. Images of Mary cradling the dead Jesus (as in Pieta) are incredibly moving. Jesus wasn't the only one who bore the nails of the cross. They surely pierced Mary as well.

We are called to participate in the sufferings of Christ. Perhaps we can voice something like what Paul wrote:

I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.

Colossians 1:24, NRSV

We are called to draw near to others. The nearer we draw the more exposure we have. Those who are closest to us have the capability to wound us most deeply. When we embrace the risk and draw near in the name of God we follow the example Christ left us and God's approval for righteous suffering.

God, give us wisdom and courage to risk and love in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

e-vo for week of April 30

Dearest e-votees-

This week we'll linger in the appointed Psalm for this coming Sunday.



1 I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.
2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.
4 Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, save my life!”

12 What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord,
14 I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.
16 O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19, NRSV

I can't help but be drawn into sacramental imagery when I read this Psalm.

We are born ensnared by death. The "pangs of Sheol" have us bound up. We suffer and are distressed and are in anguish in our unredeemed state.

We cry (when we grow old enough) and before that the community cries "O Lord, we pray, save this life!"

God pours out heaven's bounty of love, grace, forgiveness and salvation upon us. We are saved through God's doing.

In response we lift up the cup of God's salvation and call on the name of the Lord (communion?)

We live into the vows that we make and that the community, even before we could speak, made on our behalf.

Precious in God's sight is the death of God's faithful ones (death in baptism?). Our bonds our loosed (freedom in baptism!).

In response we can live a sacrificial life of service ("Let your light so shine before others...") bringing glory to God.

God, You have loved us and loosed us. Help us use that freedom to love You and others and help them be set free. Amen.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

e-vo for week of April 23

Dearest e-votees-

This Sunday we visit again with Thomas wanting to experience the risen Christ as the other disciples had.

Some call him doubting. I find him earnest and zealous.



19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

John 20:19-31, NRSV

The disciples are post-Easter yet still afraid. They are lurking behind locked doors out of fear. I wonder "What doors do we crouch behind hoping to stay safe?" Jesus pushes through the obstacles and breathes peace and power into them. What a gift that Jesus gives to the disciples. I wonder "Is Jesus still willing to come through the obstacles we put in his way to bring reconciliation?" and "Is Jesus willing to empower us to reconcile as well through forgiveness?"

Thomas is gone (maybe fetching food and supplies for the survivalist disciples, who knows?). He returns and the disciples tell him what they have seen and heard. Thomas wants assurances too. He wants God's peace. He wants God's power. He wants to see the wounds the other disciples saw. He is not weak in the faith but strong in zeal and deeply earnest. Jesus grants Thomas' request.

The disciples were restored and empowered to give witness (including writing the book of the gospel) so that others might come to faith. We are among those who have not seen and yet have come to belief. Jesus calls us blessed.

God, draw us up into earnest zeal and help us be a blessing to others by passing along that which you have revealed to us. Amen.