Wednesday, February 26, 2014

e-vo for week of February 26

Dearest e-votees-

This Sunday bookends Epiphany with an echo of the voice we heard at Jesus' baptism.

Jesus, beloved of God, is the one with whom God is pleased. We overhear the charge to listen to him. Our response may be one of fear--dread terror or reverent awe--but nonetheless Jesus will urge us to rise and not be afraid.

For Jesus himself will rise and through his perfect love will drive out all fear.



1 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Matthew 17:1-9, NRSV

Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets. The exemplar of the law, Moses, is present talking to Jesus. The exemplar of the prophets, Elijah, is part of the conversation too. Luke 24:44 has Jesus saying that he will also fulfill things written of him in the psalms. I wonder why the exemplar of the psalmists, David, wasn't here on this holy mountain as well. Jesus has a conversation with these luminaries of the faith (fitting for a shiny season like Epiphany). Luke 9:31 tells us that they were discussing what Jesus would accomplish in Jerusalem.

Peter wanted to stay and to build booths or shelters or tents (most likely a reference to the Old Testament Festival of Booths). Peter wants to make a dwelling for these holy guests and dwell with them. God has other plans that include the cross and the resurrection in Jerusalem. But, in the end, God will make booths or shelters or tabernacles with God's people (see Revelation 21:3). God will indeed choose to restore and redeem and reside with God's people.

Peter was present at so very many of Jesus' miracles and moments of teaching yet the only reference in scripture from the books with Peter's name on them is back to the Mount of Transfiguration. This moment shaped Peter. This moment inspired Peter. This moment revealed God's work to Peter. That is what Epiphany in general and Transfiguration in particular are about. May our commemoration of the last Sunday of Epiphany and the day of Transfiguration shape us and inspire us and reveal God's work to us.

God, thank you for choosing to dwell with us. Give us faith to follow you down the mountain and to where you would lead us. Help us neither fear the cross nor the grave but know that your resurrection assures us of ours too. Help us live into the love that God has for us and for all people. Amen.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

e-vo for week of February 19

Dearest e-votees-

One of the purposes of the law is to drive us to the foot of the cross.

Jesus, this week, takes what has been said and commonly repeated and cranks it up even further. To those who were (or are) satisfied with the status quo (thank you Lord that I am not a bad a sinner as that one [see Luke 18:9-14]) Jesus greatly increases the expectations.

The truth is we can't under our own power or understanding come anywhere close to where God needs us to be. With us this is impossible. Thanks be to God that it doesn't depend on us or our strivings towards perfection.



38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:38-48, NRSV

The eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth is a way to constrain retaliation. If someone knocks a tooth out you should exact no more revenge than up to one tooth in return. If someone pokes your eye out you should exact no more revenge than up to one eye in return. Jesus states this with an implied assent from the crowd. He then greatly intensifies the expectation. Give people more than they want to steal from you. When they hurt you give them that opportunity again. When they work you unjustly work even harder for them. When people beg from you give what they want and more. This makes little sense and infuriates the fairness barometer in me. I really don't want to be spouting such things from the pulpit. What Jesus is really saying, I think, is rather than fixate on how much revenge you can exact work on finding ways to bless even those who hurt and curse you. It is how Jesus treats those of us who put him on the cross. He expects us to learn from his example.

Jesus goes on to assert love your neighbor and hate your enemy with the refrain of the implied assent from the crowd. Jesus again greatly intensifies the expectation. Love all, especially those who persecute you. Pray for them (as Jesus did from the cross). Offer forgiveness and the hope of salvation (as Jesus did from the cross). Give all you can to show love to those who profoundly hate you (as Jesus did from the cross). Jesus showed us what perfect love looks like.

We are invited to be made perfect in that love. We can't do what Jesus did on our own. It isn't about our efforts or our failings. It is about Jesus completing the work begun in us all to God's glory. When that is done we will be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Thanks be to God.

God, make us more like Jesus on the cross. Continue to bring your perfection to bear on our imperfections. Amen.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

e-vo for week of February 12

Dearest e-votees-

We are in a world where we are taught to look out for ourselves. Our primary task is to make sure our needs are met and our ravenous desires are sated. We are to choose what suits us.

Jesus prayed for unity for all those who come to belief in him in John 17. Jesus wants us to be like him and put the needs of others on a par with our own. Our task shifts to make sure that the needs of all are met and that those who are hungry all have a place at the table. We are to choose to take up the cross which is what suits those who follow after Jesus.

The tension is one as old as the dirt in the garden of Eden. Are we gods? Or are we God's? How we answer that should make all the difference in the world.



3 And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? 4 For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?

5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. 9 For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

1 Corinthians 3:1-9, NRSV

Jesus came into the world and became one of us. That is what we call the incarnation. He took on flesh. He took on meat and bones. He took on a personality and a voice, an appearance and a biography, an ethnicity and mannerisms. In the person of Jesus we come to know the 2nd Person of the Trinity--the Savior, the Creator, the Redeemer, the Son, etc., etc. By knowing Jesus we have a vision of the unseen God. (see Colossians 1:15) When we see Jesus we see the Father. (see John 14:8-9). Jesus reveals God to us. If we want to follow in the ways of God we are wise to belong to Jesus. We belong not because we choose Jesus but rather because Jesus first chose us. As God helps us live into the choosing we come to know God.

Other people can help incarnate God to us. They are not God in the sense that Jesus is but they can help to reveal God to us. Through their personality and stories, through their caring gazes and testimony, through their culture and their rituals these people can help us to experience Jesus and by extension the Holy Spirit and God the Father. When we see the image of God in those people we see God. By knowing them and their faith stories we have a vision of the unseen God. They reveal God to us. If we want to know God more fully it makes sense that we might find delight and joy belonging with them. There is nothing wrong with having allegiance and positive regard for one who has made God known to you.

Who are some of those people in your life? What are their names? Who are your Paul and Apollos and Cephas? In my own journey they have names like Sue, Robert, Wilbur, Rick, Deanna and Kim. Who are they for you? I give thanks for these people that have shaped your faith and revealed God to you.

The issue becomes when we substitute the messenger for the message. The workers in God's field are not to supplant the harvest that is God's. God is revealed through others so often in our lives but that shouldn't cause divisions. If we are the spiritual people God is wanting us to become we can give thanks for Paul and Apollos and Cephas without choosing favorites. We belong to God. Those who have made that clear belong to God too as our brothers and sisters. Choosing favorites among our siblings is simply unwise.

The real joy is that God will use us, too, to reveal God to others. As people look at us they will hopefully see God's image and God at work. When given opportunity we are best to imitate John the Baptist: "I must decrease that Jesus might increase." (see John 3:30) The world teaches us to admire the one in the mirror. But the wise one knows it is better to reflect God and to deflect honor and praise heavenward.

God, thank you for all who have incarnated you in our lives, particularly Jesus. Help us do the same all to your glory. Amen.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

e-vo for week of February 5

Dearest e-votees-

This Sunday we are celebrating a baptism here at Christ the Good Shepherd Lutheran. We are remembering the good promises God makes to Abigail and to all of us. We are made right with God through what Jesus has done. We are restored into right relationship. We are made well (what salvation means in the fullest sense).

And then we are given opportunities to live and serve in ways that bring glory to God. I have always loved the part of the baptismal service where we quote Matthew 5:16 where Jesus says: "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven."



13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:13-20, NRSV

What does it mean to say that we are the light of the world? Or that we are the salt of the earth? Are we something that brings life to the world? Or are we more like a revealing or an intensifying agent? Are we the bread of life? Or are we the salt that can help that bread be more fully engaged by the world? Are we the light that has come into the world? Or are we a conduit or lens or mirror or some other optical channel that helps reveal Jesus, the true light coming into the world?

Our text study group this week spent a good deal of time talking about righteousness not being strictly about doing the right and proper things but being in right relationship. The call to be more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees isn't about being more pious than they (which would be exceedingly hard to do) but rather to be more fully restored into the relationships for which God has created us.

Jesus has come into the world to fulfill the law and the prophets (and the psalms, see Luke 24:44). Our task is to allow ourselves to be entered into the kingdom of heaven through what Christ has done. The world needs the bread of life who gave himself in communion and on the cross. Our spiritual hunger can most fully be sated through Christ. It we lead salty lives God just may be able to use that to bring more folks to the table. The dark world in which we dwell needs the light of the world, Jesus, to draw us out of our sin and isolation into restored community with God. If we lead shiny lives God just may be able to use that to bring more folks out of the shadows.

The scribes and Pharisees seemed more interested in having everyone know they were more righteous and more faithful than others than just about anything else. We can't compete with their piety. And we don't have to. Jesus has done what is required. We are back in right relationship with God. And when people see us living that way, and perhaps even hear our testimony to that end, they will see and taste the good works that Jesus has done in our lives and give glory to his Father and our Father in heaven. Thanks be to God.

God, make us salty and shiny all to your glory. Amen.