Monday, June 29, 2015

e-vo for week of July 1

Dearest e-votees,

We live in a world that is overly fixated on being the best, the strongest, the fastest, etc., etc.

What if we heard God say to us clear as a bell "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness."?



2 I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. 3 And I know that such a person--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows--4 was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. 5 On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses.

6 But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, 7 even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.

8 Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9 but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:2-10, NRSV

Paul had the credentials. He was of the right lineage. He was schooled well. He had good grades. He had power and influence. He had Roman citizenship. He was a complete package.

If one were to look for a strong leader for the early church Paul, once he stopped being Saul the stoning-approving coatrack, was a strong candidate. Paul was like any of King David's brothers when Nathan was looking for the next king to anoint. But God opted for a Paul who had some sort of thorn in his flesh. He was more like David--not the most likely to succeed. But God declared that power was made perfect in weakness.

Are you more stuck on yourself or stuck with some thorn in the flesh? Are you praying like the Pharisee in the front of the temple or more like the chest-pounding publican in the rear? Are you trusting in your own powers or are you resting in God's grace which is sufficient? Is it about works or grace for you?

I believe that the nature of Paul's thorn is obscured in scripture so we can take these verses to heart as well. Whatever pain or lack or struggle we have in the flesh is not an excuse for us. It is a pointer to God's grace. If we insist on putting ourselves and our abilities in the center we will falter badly. If we trust God in the center of our life then we will have what we need purely and surely by God's grace.

God, thank you for thorns. Thank you for deep and abiding promises that you can work all thorny situations for good for those who love you and are called according to your purpose. Amen.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

e-vo for week of June 24

Dearest e-votees,

This week's assigned gospel text is a pair of healings that are nested together. Again, this week's e-vo was shaped through conversations at the weekly text study I attend.

Healing is something we all need--physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. May we all know more deeply the healing touch of Jesus this day.



21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24 So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Mark 5:21-43, NRSV

In some ways the two healings parallel one another: both involve nameless females; 12 years is a significant number in their lives (the length of suffering of the bleeding woman and the entirety of life of the young girl); both are ceremonially unclean and others should be avoiding contact with them; both have a someone making a distinct effort to reach out to Jesus for help; both have presumably run out of options and are making an 11th hour desperation plea to Jesus.

In some ways the two healings starkly contrast one another: a nameless woman is healed in the midst of a huge crowd while the daughter of a prominent synagogue leader is healed while shut out from the rest of the world; the bleeding woman reaches out to Jesus physically while Jesus reaches out and takes the hand of the dead girl; the bleeding woman's healing was viewed by many and surely part of conversations for weeks to come while Jesus orders the parents, the little girl and the disciples that no one should know about the healing. In many ways the table are turned: the outcast is restored prominently in community while the community leader is sequestered and hushed; the high made low and the low made high; the dying is made well; the dead one is restored to life. Our understanding and circumstances are no match for the kingdom of God breaking into the world.

If we were to wonder how these verses affect us and our world perhaps it might come to bear as follows:

We might notice that Jesus is alive and at work in the world regardless of the station or circumstance of those of us in the world. Jesus brings healing to all.

Our ways, our understandings and our perspectives may have to be made low as God's purposes are raised high.

Community and relationships are restored as Jesus does the work of the ministry he has been given. If we are followers of him perhaps such goals might be ours as well.

We may find ourselves more like the bleeding woman or more like the dying and dead girl. The real point is not so much who they were but rather who Jesus was and how important they both were to him. We can get so fixated on ourselves and our worthiness (or lack thereof) and our contributions. The one who had something to offer was (and still is) Jesus. He generously gives to both of these situations that beckon him. As we grow in faith (also something Jesus generously gives) we find ourselves benefactors of so many blessings of God. May we steward them well and point others to the source of all of our blessings.

God, open our souls to the text that is appointed for Sunday. Help us to find healing as only you can bring. Amen.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

e-vo for week of June 17

Dearest e-votees,

This week's assigned gospel text is the account of Jesus calming the storm.

This week's e-vo was inspired by the weekly clergy text study I attend and, in particular, by the comments of James Nestingen. I am indebted to him and, of course, claim all poorly stated and/or theologically sketchy musings below as fully my own.



35 On that day, when evening had come, [Jesus] said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Mark 4:35-41, NRSV

Our understanding as Lutherans is that we live in theological tensions and dialectics.

By dialectic we are talking about the following definition (from

9. the juxtaposition or interaction of conflicting ideas, forces, etc.

We talk of communion being bread and wine while both/and being body and blood.

We talk of a divinely inspired Word of God while both/and being words written by humans.

We talk of being saints while both/and being sinners. (simul justus et peccator)

And this week's text adds other layer:

We talk as faithful ones: (implied text, might have had a little more urgency with a fishermanesque verbiage) "Wake up Lord, we're in trouble and we need you to save us!"

while both/and we talk as ones lacking faith: "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"

Mark 9:24 catches it well: "I believe; help my unbelief!"

The question is not "Are you a believer or not?". The correct answer to that question is "YES!!!"

We find ourselves tossed by storms outside in the elements and inside our souls. We find ourselves making bold faith statements while both/and asking cowardly faithless questions. We are unreliable at best.

Our hope is not in us. It is not in our resolved issues and steadfast faith. It is in the person of Jesus Christ who saves us. It is in Jesus who will not forsake us no matter which way the wind is blowing in our fickle faith.

Q: "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

A: This is Jesus the Christ, our hope and our salvation.

God, help us find rest for the tumult of our souls and our belief in Jesus. We believe, help our unbelief. Amen.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

e-vo for week of June 10

Dearest e-votees,

There are two tracks of readings in the lectionary. For this week's e-vo we will use the Old Testament option for the reading from Samuel.



34 Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. 35 Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.

16 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2 Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” 4 Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5 He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11 Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13, NRSV

This text is a stark reminder that the Lord does not see as mortals see. We as people can be so fixated on the outer trappings of a person. The Lord looks more deeply into the heart.

Our pop culture is engrossed in what is outside of a person. We look at how attractive someone is. We consider how much they own. We look at their curriculum vita and measure them up compared to others. We have ideals in mind, those we have forged or those that have been indoctrinated into us, and we regard people through those judgmental lenses. We have television shows that encourage us to covet and emulate and to label and discriminate.

The experiment with a new king for the people of Israel--namely Saul--didn't end well. The Lord was sorry that Saul had been Israel's king. It was time to name a successor and the intent was not to have this kingdom end badly as the first one had. The Lord is looking into the heart of possible future kings. The Lord selects and Samuel anoints David. David's heart wasn't always pure--remember Uriah the Hittite? Remember Bathsheba? David wasn't always what the Lord had hoped. Perhaps the Lord's disinclination to name a king to begin with would have been better heeded.

Nonetheless, the Lord chose David. The Lord equipped David to serve in particular ways. Not everyone saw on the outside what the Lord saw on the inside. Even when David stumbled and fell and grieved the Lord, the Lord didn't give up on David. The Lord's promises to David were certain and sure. The covenant the Lord made with David did not falter.

The Lord has chosen you. The Lord has chosen me. The Lord has equipped us to serve in particular ways--in particular vocations. Not everyone on the outside can see and support what God has seen on the inside and given us to do. Even when we stumble and fall--and we will--the Lord will not give up on us. The Lord's promises to us in baptism are certain and sure. The covenant God made with David and with us does not falter.

God, help us stop judging others--particularly on the outward appearances that have bedazzled the world. Help us trust in your faithfulness and respond in faith when you call. Amen.

If you are so inclined you are welcome to check out:

this week. I was honored to be asked to write the devotions for June 8-14. If you do give them a read I would love some feedback at Thanks.

Friday, June 5, 2015

e-vo for week June 3

Dearest e-votees,

This Sunday is the beginning of ordinary time. We are in the long green season of the days after Pentecost. For the e-vo this week we'll take a look at appointed verse from Genesis.



8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” 14 The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
cursed are you among all animals
and among all wild creatures;
upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between
you and the woman, and
between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

Romans 12:9-16b, NRSV

I was struck when I found the following image on-line:

If you click on the image it will take you to the source page. This image is part of a beautiful and intricate nave window at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga. It is worth a visit.

The scene in the text is when the consequences of the forbidden fruit are coming to bear. What was needed was a mea culpa but Adam offers an accusing shea culpa and Eve, in turn, offers an accusing hea culpa pointing at the serpent. I'm sure if the serpent had fingers and another target the blame passing would have continued. But the Lord God puts a stop to the blaming and speaks into the situation. What the Lord God says is descriptive: that there will be enmity between the humans (the offspring of Eve) and the tempters to come (the offspring of the serpent). How we continue to struggle with sin and temptation. Sin, death and the devil are prowling this world.

But the Lord God also offers a gospel promise. There is a prophetic statement. That one of Eve's offspring will crush the head of the serpent. And also that the serpent will strike that one's heel. Some see in that text the crucifixion (where the heels of Jesus are struck quite literally and quite painfully) and where Jesus' work on the cross definitively vanquished the power of sin, death and the devil.

When you look at the image above do you see the snares of the tempter (coiled around the ankle) or do you see the promise (the serpent is being defeated)? No matter where you have struggled and fallen (like Adam and Eve) God has a saving promise for you. May your ears be opened and your hopes encouraged.

God, thank you for gospel promises that started all the way back in the beginning. Help us, with your help, allow the schemes of the devil to be crushed underfoot. Amen.

If you are so inclined you are welcome to check out:

this coming week. I was honored to be asked to write the devotions for June 8-14. If you do give them a read I would love some feedback at Thanks.