Wednesday, January 29, 2014

e-vo for week of January 29

Dearest e-votees-

This coming Sunday has lots going on: Groundhog Day, Super Bowl XLVIII, the 4th Sunday after Epiphany and also it is the day we commemorate the Presentation of our Lord.

Jewish babies were brought to be presented to the Lord after the mother had completed her time of ritual impurity. Mary was, according to custom and law, ritually impure for 40 days. 40 days after Christmas just happens to be February 2nd. Mary and Joseph bring Jesus with the appropriate offerings this coming Sunday (in our church year commemorations).

We will look at the appointed psalm for this Sunday, Psalm 84.



1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!

2 My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.

3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.

4 Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise.

5 Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.

6 As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.

7 They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion.

8 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob!

9 Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed.

10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.

11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly.

12 O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you.

Psalm 84, NRSV

This psalm is one of my personal favorites. I encountered it vividly as it was carved into the surrounding walls of chapel in Thousand Oaks, CA (at California Lutheran University) while I was doing some fretful pre-seminary discerning. It speaks deeply to me.

You may recognize this Psalm as the source material for Matt Redman's worship song "Better is One Day". For a truly unforgettable version of this song (although you truly may wish to do so after hearing it) you can find a collaboration between Matt Redman and the Veggie Tales group on VeggieTales: Worship Songs.

The good news is that there is a place for us in God's courts. There is room enough even for the sparrows and you are worth more than many sparrows (see Luke 12:7). God provides strength and joy and favor and honor and happiness for those who trust in God. This isn't to say we won't wander through places of weakness and despair and disfavor and dishonor and unhappiness at times. Jesus endured all these things on the cross and invites us, too, to take up our crosses and follow after him. But, we have a respite and oasis in the courts of our God. And God is preparing a permanent place for us. Those things that tax and drain us are passing but God's enduring love and provision will sustain us forever starting now.

When our hearts faint and our souls long may we seek comfort and assurance in no other place than that which God has provided for us. The tents of wickedness of this world don't compare to the courts of our God. When we go through the hard places of pain and tears and distress (Baca) may God lead us to deep pools of the river of life to slake our thirsty souls.

God, help us long for your courts and your ways. Lead us to the places you have provided for us. Amen.

Friday, January 17, 2014

e-vo for week of January 22

Dearest e-votees-

Due to a family situation that needs my undivided attention next week I am posting this e-vo early.

May you be blessed this day.



10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. 12 What I mean is that each of you says, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apollos," or "I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ." 13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. 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.

1 Corinthians 1:10-18, NRSV

Did you know that Jesus prays for you in the Bible? Check it out:

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

John 17:20-21, NRSV

Jesus longs for those who believe in him to be one. Jesus prays specifically that we would be one just as Jesus and the Father are one. He prays this so that the world may believe that Jesus was sent by the Father.

Christians have a well-deserved bad rap. The world looks at us and sees us staking our claim as camp Paul or camp Apollos or camp Cephas. The world sees us drawing our lines between Catholic and Protestant; those who speak in tongues and those who do not; [insert church-rifting distinction of your choice here], etc., etc. The world hears our shrill, self-righteous rhetoric and they want to cover their ears. We allow the important but relatively minor differences in piety and style trump the call and God's deep desire for us to be the body of Christ. We divide Christ. We crucify Christ anew when we allows ourselves and our sin to so bitterly separate us from our brothers and sisters. We shun the unity granted to us in baptism. We grieve God and push against Jesus' very prayer.

Jesus' work on the cross was to break down division between us and God. It was to level the ground between the self-righteous and the self-loathing. It was to heal the rifts and draw us together. It sounds like foolishness in our earthly and perishing wisdom. But it is that very work on the cross that saves us. Healing, unification and restoration are the power of God at work. Thanks be to God.

God, bring Jesus' prayer to bear on our lives. Teach us anew how to be your body. Amen.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

e-vo for week of January 15

Dearest e-votees-

I am going to break from the usual pattern for this week. Generally I pick one of the assigned lessons for the upcoming Sunday from the RCL (or sometimes a special commemoration day of the church that falls in the week). But for this week I want to draw your attention to a truly remarkable story.

I would like to commend to you the film Philomena.

This story is pointed in its critique, funny and deeply insightful about issues of faith and forgiveness. Your time will be well spent if you see this film.



13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me,when none of them as yet existed.

17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end—I am still with you.

Psalm 139:13-18, NRSV

The psalmist writes about the intimacy between the created and the creator. But also about the intimacy between a child and mother. A deep and abiding bond is created. The works are wonderful and fearful. And the creator and the parent have hopes and dreams written for the lifetime that is to come. Weighty thoughts and affections and hopes and love are present. They are more numerous than the sands of the beach and the stars of the sky. The love of creator or parent for a child are like the promises to Abraham.

What heartache and grief is there when this bond between creator or parent and child is torn asunder. If by accident or willful sin this bond is severed how deep a grief is inflicted on all involved. Philomena explores the deep grief of a child separated from mother. The Bible explores the deep grief of a sinful separation between God and creation.

Philomena shows the deep longing and the extremes a mother will go to be restored to her child. The Bible shows the deep love and the extremes that God will go to be restored to those made in God's image.

How might parent or creator respond to the heartache of being separated from child?

Perhaps by running down the driveway to welcome the lost one coming home (see Luke 15)

Perhaps by becoming inconsolably despondent (read the newspapers, watch the news)

Perhaps by pouring love into the life of another who has also suffered such a separation (thank God for foster parents)

Perhaps like a bitter journalist with a huge chip on his shoulder towards God (see Philomena)

Perhaps like a faithful woman walking through life in prayer and hope despite all the odds (see Philomena)

Perhaps movies have something to say to us about faith. Do we have ears to hear?

God, we thank you for your weighty and loving thoughts toward us. We thank you that we are laid bare before you yet you love us completely. You have made us for love and for joy. Help us reflect those towards you and bear them towards the world. Amen.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

e-vo for week of January 8

Dearest e-votees-

Blessed Epiphany to you!

Epiphany is the season of the church year where we focus on God being revealed into the world. The word "epiphany" literally means "to shine upon" and has the sense of a revealing light.

This week the lectionary's gospel lesson reveals Jesus as the beloved Son of God full of the Holy Spirit. It is one of the few times in scripture that the entire personhood of the Trinity is discernibly present with the God the Father speaking, God the Holy Spirit descending like a dove and Jesus coming out of the waters of his baptism.

May that same Trinity be discernibly present in your thoughts, prayers and actions this week.



13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3:13-17, NRSV

John is busy doing his ministry of baptism at the Jordan river. People are coming in response to his crying out in the wilderness. John is doing what he was sent to do and fulfilling prophecies that were spoken about him centuries ago. John is indeed preparing the way for the one who is to come.

Enter the one who was to come. Jesus approaches John. John suddenly becomes hesitant. He realizes that he is in the presence of one much greater than he. He realizes that he must decrease that Jesus might increase (see John 3:30) John, with perhaps the best of intentions, wants to prevent Jesus from doing what he came to do. Jesus presses John into service nonetheless and the baptism happens.

What has called us to do? What people are responding to how we carry ourselves in the world? Are we allowing God to do what God has sent us to do? Are we living into the prophecies and promises that were spoken about us centuries ago? If Jesus were to come up to us in a discernible manner would we welcome him and do as he asks or would we balk and try to run interference?

The deal is that we don't, even when operating with the best of intentions, begin to understand what all God might do through us or to us. God comes into the world so often defying expectations of those earnestly looking for God. Why would we be any different than others who have missed God's intentions before us? Perhaps the best thing we can do is pray that we would be interruptible. God may well be intending a divine intrusion or interruption into our ways in the world this day. God's brightness may well blaze a new understanding into our dark ways of thinking. If we allow ourselves to decrease in order that Jesus may increase we may very well have a discernible epiphany about this Son who is beloved by God and is, indeed, well-pleasing to God.

God, shine your truth into our lives. Let your Holy Spirit alight on our understandings and our ways. Amen.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

e-vo for New Year's Day

Dearest e-votees-

Happy New Year!

We are now on the eighth day of Christmas. 8 has special significance in Christianity (8 sided baptismal font hints at 8 people saved in flood, 8 compass points of the Great Commission and 8 days of the week (7-day week + Resurrection day)). There is much that could be said on this eighth day.

The eighth day is the day that a baby boy would receive the mark of the covenant, circumcision, and be named. Since we celebrate Jesus' birth on December 25 then it makes sense to commemorate today, the eighth day, as the day Jesus received his name. We will use the appointed gospel for "Holy Name of Jesus" for our devotion this week.

The Holy Name of Jesus means "he saves". Thanks be to God.



15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

21 After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Luke 2:15-21, NRSV

It seems that the chaos of Christmas (shepherds, angels, gifts, etc., etc.) has settled down. Mary and Joseph are settling in as new parents. Mary, particularly, is treasuring and pondering the words spoken about her baby boy. And now it is time to give him his name.

Names are so important to anyone but particularly in the culture of the Bible. Names have significance and meaning and the power to help define someone's life and calling. God has sent an angel to communicate Jesus' name. Mary and Joseph give Jesus his name as directed by God. They are acknowledging that their boy will be an agent of healing and salvation. Surely they had no idea the scope and the cost of that salvation. I wonder if Mary was still pondering and treasuring these words of the shepherds at the foot of the cross.

When someone is baptized they are given a new name: child of God. Names are able to shape us in terms of our life and our calling. When we are baptized we surely have no idea of the scope and the cost of that salvation. We grow into that each and every day we live into our baptismal calling. When we let the chaos of the world (Christmas or otherly) fade into the background we can settle into pondering and treasuring the Word which speaks to this day into our life and circumstances.

Some days of our walk are happier; some not so much so. But every day can be a joyful one when we remember how much God so loved us and all the world and all that God did to communicate that to us. Another of the appointed texts for "Holy Name of Jesus" is the blessing found in Numbers 6:22-27 which says:

22 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 23 Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,

24 The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. 27 So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.

May this blessing sustain you today.

God, you have blessed us with your salvation and made us your children. Help us live in ways that bring glory to you and invite others into these powerful healing promises.