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.