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.