Sunday, July 3, 2016

The ultimate e-vo

Dearest e-votees,

November 21, 2007 is when I first posted an e-vo on blogspot. Today's post marks the 500th and final e-vo that will be posted to this site.

It has been a blessing to be able to write and express theological musings on the lectionary readings (and occasional diversions into the Bible in 90 Days and other special foci). It has been a blessing having you along as part of this. My hope and prayer is it has been a blessing for you.

I'm sure I will find some other avenue/vehicle for writing and devoting but this one has run its course. Thank you for your readership and encouragement along the way. Blessings.



1 My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 4 All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. 5 For all must carry their own loads.

6 Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.

7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8 If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9 So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

11 See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. 14 May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! 16 As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

Galatians 6:1-16, NRSV

1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’


16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20, NRSV

Consider this question:

If you could do anything you wanted with the guarantee that you would not fail what would you choose?

Be honest now: Would you pursue gratifying some aspect of your flesh (whatever that might mean to you) or would you set your sights on a more spiritual goal?

What level of commitment would you be willing to make to bring this goal to pass? Would you put in the requisite 10,000 + plus hours to gain competence (as discussed in Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell). Would you be willing to endure a grueling training montage a la any of the Rocky movies? The guarantee that you will not fail does not equate with an easy path or no effort on your part.

How focused would you be on achieving your goal? How would you "test your own work"? (see Galatians 1:4 above). What if someone needed your help and interrupted your progress? Would you be willing to help bear another's burden? What if someone sinned against you? Would you be willing to work towards reconciliation offering forgiveness?

What would you be willing to walk away from or set aside in order to attain your goal? What dust would you wipe from your feet? What would you relegate to the rear view mirror?

What would be the measure of your success in attaining your goal? How would you know when you have arrived?

Consider Jesus:

He could certainly pursue any goal in all of creation. Greater minds have wrestled with and much theological ink has been spilled over if Jesus could fail at a goal he might choose. We'll leave that for another time.

Jesus chose a goal: to inscribe your name in heaven.

Jesus chose not to sate his flesh and slake his carnal thirsts but rather to take on flesh that we might take on eternal life (beginning now, not upon our deaths). This was a goal of the highest spiritual nature.

Jesus put aside heaven and his divine privileges to become one of us. He took on the form of a slave. He gave all that he had for a world that often didn't recognize him and, when we did, was often abusive to him. He endured all manner of shame and torment which landed him firmly on the cross.

While chasing after this goal Jesus was supremely interruptible by needs around him. Healings, feedings, deliverances, restorations, teachings, etc., etc. pressed in on him often. He kept his focus on the cross but certainly engaged the needs on all sides. He lived the cruciform life.

Jesus refused to let temptations, hatred, prejudice, spiritual haughtiness or other things cling to him and obscure the work before him. He wiped those forms of dust off his feet as surely as he washed the feet of his disciples. He forgave those who wronged him from the cross, throughout his ministry and to every one who comes to repentance. His forgiveness is a sure as his determination to wash the feet of even Peter and even Judas at the Last Supper.

Jesus' goal was to inscribe your name in heaven. He has done all that he could do to make your in right standing with God. Heaven is open to you. Eternal life is here for you now. How will Jesus' know that his goal of inscribing your name in heaven is complete? Good question.

Consider this new question:

Presuming your name is inscribed in heaven, what would God have you do?

Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ out Lord. Amen.

fade to black...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

e-vo for week of June 22

Dearest e-votees,

Jesus sums up all the commandments as two: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind." and "Love your neighbor as yourself." He says that we should tend to the vertical relationship with God and the horizontal relationship with neighbor. We should live a cruciform (cross-shaped) life.

Our appointed gospel text in Luke for this week speaks to Jesus' priorities. What might they say to us who have so very many commitments and so precious-little time?



51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then they went on to another village.

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:51-62, NRSV

For quite a while I have been struck by the shape of Jesus' life--cruciform. In verse 51 Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem. In the NIV it talks about Jesus resolutely setting out towards Jerusalem. Jesus knew what was waiting for him--the cross. Jesus knew why he had come into the world and how he would leave this world. He would not be deterred from his purpose. He was tending to his relationship with his Father in heaven. Nothing could distract him from that pinnacle moment of his ministry

That said, Jesus' ministry seems to be all about being interrupted by the needs at hand. Jesus restores a dead son to his widow mother. Jesus feeds thousands from meager resources. Jesus casts out demons. Jesus restores sight. Jesus takes moments to teach, console, cajole and confront. While never taking his resolute focus off of Jerusalem he seems completely engaged in the needs that come into his peripheral vision. He was faithfully tending to the needs of his neighbor.

This balance between the vertical calling of his life to the cross and to heaven and the horizontal calling of his life to love and serve neighbor is what the cross looks like. Our lives also have a cruciform calling. We are called to put God first and foremost. If we get distracted from putting God first we need only remember Jesus' sharp words to those who wanted to tend to their father and say farewell to friends. Some have tried to explain away Jesus' seeming callous disregard for these human needs and desires. I choose to think that Jesus knew the hearts and intentions of those to whom he was speaking. If these words catch us up short that might be more about us than what Jesus said.

But, certainly, part of taking up our cross and putting God first is caring for those created in the image of God who interrupt our plans and intentions for any given day. If Jesus can take time to wash the feet and serve communion to his disciples just hours before his grisly and painful death then we, too, should be open to the call towards inconvenient service. Some have described hospitality as making yourself uncomfortable for the sake and comfort of another. Jesus surely lived and died this path of hospitality. We, when we take up our cross and follow after Jesus, are also called to this sort of life and this sort of death.

When we try to bring about God's kingdom in our own understanding it looks like the sons of thunder wanting to rain down hellfire and brimstone on enemies who resist God's plan. Jesus rebuked them and would surely do the same to us. When we allow God to bring about God's kingdom through God's wisdom in our lives it looks much more like a basin and a towel and a cross. And while we are enduring that cross we are taught be example to pray for our enemies who don't know what they are doing. That is surely an aspect of taking up our cross for the sake of the kingdom of God.

God, bring your cruciform mold to the uncommitted flow of our lives. Draw us resolutely towards you; pour us out abundantly in service to neighbor. Amen.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

e-vo for week of June 15

Dearest e-votees,

In our appointed gospel text for this Sunday Jesus wanders through all sorts of social taboos to make a connection with a troubled man. The man is restored and delivered.

The good news of the gospel is just that: Jesus enters into the world to make connection with us--a troubled humanity. He comes to restore us and to bring deliverance.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the story is that part we don't hear. What was it like for that man (imagined as Crazy Joe in Gordon Atkinson's "James, John and Crazy Joe" which can be found in his book and poetically imagined as Crazy Bill by poet Tim Melton at Sacrosanct Gospel) to be restored to his right mind and then called to stay and bear witness to his home town? How did that go? How was he received? How long did he abide with that call? We really don't know. Interesting to imagine. Peace,


26 Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— 29 for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31 They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

Luke 8:26-39, NRSV

Jesus alights on the shore where a demon-possessed man (who previously lived in the nearby cities of the Decapolis--see Mark 5:20) has no clothes--a little awkward. He lives in the tombs making him ceremonially unclean--more than a little awkward. He had been chained up but kept busting through the chains. He cries out and cuts/bruises himself with stones (see Mark 5). This is not a well man. He is dangerous and powerful and self-preserving sensible people would keep their distance. He causes people to be unclean and unable to participate in regular ritual religious life and spiritually sensible people would keep their distance. He has every appearance of being off-kilter and deranged and unable to carry on a conversation and socially sensible people would keep their distance. This man is a iridescent "DO NOT APPROACH" sign--yet Jesus approaches.

In conversing with the man he determines that there are many demons in him. So many that he goes by the name of "Legion". The demons are afraid that Jesus will return them from whence they came. After a quick negotiation Jesus lets them go into the nearby pigs (unclean animals which would also make those in their presence ceremonially unclean). The demonically-infused swine (deviled ham?!?) plunge themselves off the cliff and are drowned. The man is made well.

The swineherds go into the Decapolis and tell what has happened. The people return with them to see what has transpired. They see the man's lot in life has been reversed. He is dressed. He is outside out of the tombs. He is in his right mind. The people respond in fear. This seems to be the terrified fear not the reverential awe fear. They send Jesus away. Perhaps they are afraid of demonic reprisals. Jesus obliges them and leaves.

The man wants to go with Jesus but Jesus tells him to stay and to proclaim what God has done for him. So he went. His iridescent "DO NOT TOUCH" has become a light that he lets so shine that others might see his good works (hear his good testimony) and give glory to his Father in heaven.

What has Jesus stepped into or through to get to us? What shame and pain and despair were we dwelling in? What shame and pain and despair has Jesus taken on as his own? Jesus has made us well. We, too, get to stay here and give testimony. Who do we know who needs to hear the good news that Jesus has infused into our lives? Dare we trust God to help us tell them? It seems like such a small response to such a good thing God has done for us and for all.

God, it seems there is nowhere that you won't go to bring us back to you. Help us trust in your deliverance and invite others into this glorious healing and restoration. Amen.

Friday, June 10, 2016

e-vo for week of June 8

Dearest e-votees,

This week's appointed gospel text is the account of the sinful woman who come's into a meal at Simon the Pharisee's house. During the meal a sinful woman comes in and anoints his feet. The Pharisee sees an opportunity sees an opportunity for judgment and derision but Jesus sees and opportunity for forgiveness and teaching.

What might we see when opportunities press into our lives that seem intrusive and bold and unsettling?



36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” 41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

8 Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, 2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.

Luke 7:36-8:3, NRSV

This story is reminiscent of Mary anointing Jesus' feet and the dinner party where sister Martha was serving in the fresh-out-of-the-grave brother Lazarus' home(John 12:1-7). Jesus seemed to be able to evoke humble devotion from some while simultaneously drawing contempt from others. In the case of the party at Lazarus' place Mary poured herself out to Jesus while Judas sneered and wanted to capture the money for his own purposes. In this Sunday's text the sinful woman pours herself out to Jesus while the also sinful but perhaps not quite so self-aware Simon pours out judgment and disdain. Jesus sees through to the hearts and the truth of both situations.

Simon has some interest in Jesus. He wouldn't have had him over for a meal if that were not the case. Simon was favorably inclined, we can presume, towards Jesus otherwise he wouldn't have sullied his residence with a heretic. They could have met elsewhere. He was hoping for some sort of favorable exchange between himself and Jesus. He wasn't hoping that a sinner (what sort of sin is never specified) would come in and lay hands on his guest. The implication is that if Jesus were a prophet he would also know how tainted this woman is and not allow her to touch him. Simon, from his place of presumed purity, points out the dirty and the broken and the sinful.

The irony is that the only one who is pure and sinless in the room is Jesus. The only one who should be making moral pronouncements about others is Jesus. Everyone in the room knows that truly only God can forgive sins. And so here is Jesus forgiving sins. The stir around the table is rightly provoked as Jesus had made a divinity claim. Those who are estranged from God are welcomed. Those who were unclean are declared clean. And those who are enabled to receive this good news respond in love. The greater the experienced forgiveness the greater the love in response. There are two case studies here at the table.

To help Simon process what is going on Jesus teaches in a parable. There were to debtors one owed 50 denarii (a denarius was a day's wage so 50 would be a couple month's wages)--no small amount. The other owed 10 times as much--more like a year and a half's wages. Neither could pay their debts and the creditor writes off both debts. Jesus asks which of these two would love the creditor more? Simon steps into the rhetorical trap with "I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt." This is like the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35). We expect those who have been forgiven much to be able to love others greatly (those who forgive them and those who they need to forgive much).

Jesus points out Simon's inactions which betray his heart. Simon had not greeted his guest, Jesus, with a kiss yet this "sinful" woman has showered Jesus with kisses. Simon had not provided Jesus with water to clean his feet (let alone clean them himself as Jesus did with the disciples on Maundy Thursday) yet this "sinful" woman had done so with tears of joy. Simon had not refreshed Jesus or blessed him with oil for his head yet this "sinful" woman had poured out ointment on his feet. Simon has not been loving in his actions. Perhaps because he did not feel forgiven. Perhaps because he thought he had no need for forgiveness. Perhaps his mind was consumed with self-righteousness and condemnation for others there wasn't a space for responding lovingly to Jesus let alone to this woman who had crashed the party.

The woman's actions betray her heart. She has been freed from her sins. In her freedom she choses to serve and bless others--Jesus in this case. This is a powerful example of Luther's "On Christian Freedom": "A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all." When we are set free in Christ it allows us, invites us, compels us, draws us to be servants to one another. Jesus in his freedom entered this world, washed feet, taught and healed, suffered injustice and offered forgiveness to all who might receive. This woman set free enters into this house, washed feet, suffers injustice through the judgments of the host yet receives forgiveness from the only one who can truly offer it.

The woman leaves the party in peace and restored. We don't know about Simon. He is like the older brother in the story of the prodigal. Grace has been demonstrated in his presence. Forgiveness and reconciliation are there for him too. Will he receive them? Will we?

God, help us receive the forgiveness we so desperately need. Stir us to serve and to bless. Chase judgment out of our hearts that there might be room for grace, healing and restoration. Amen.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

e-vo for week of June 1

Dearest e-votees,

Classic healing story of Jesus is our appointed gospel for this week.

A widow's only son is dead. As the town gathers to grieve (and maybe gawk or maybe fall into despair) Jesus comes in to speak life into death and to restore relationships. Where might death and broken relationships be haunting us? How open are we to Jesus speaking life into our places of despair as well?



11 Soon afterwards [Jesus] went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. 12 As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother's only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. 13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, "Do not weep." 14 Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, rise!" 15 The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen among us!" and "God has looked favorably on his people!" 17 This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

Luke 7:11-17, NRSV

In a patriarchal society it is a bad thing to lose your husband. He was a means of support and protection and status. Having your husband die on you could expose you precariously to poverty and danger. However, having a son to help look after you might mitigate some of the exposure of being a widow. In a patriarchal society it is a very, very bad thing as a widow to lose your only son. Your protection is gone. Your support is gone. Soon your family name might be gone as well. You may well become dependent on welfare to survive. The options to you for self-support are limited and might involve some form of servitude/slavery and perhaps even prostitution. The grief and despair of two deaths in the family are compounded by the grief and despair of an anticipated future. This is indeed a time to lean deeply into mourning.

But then enters this itinerant rabbi that has been connecting with the lowly and the outcast and those on the fringes. He sees that you and the town are mourning your son. He approaches the funeral procession. He reaches out and touches the platform that is bearing your son. He doesn't seem concerned about the social transgressions here. He doesn't seemed concerned about ritual purity. He doesn't even talk to you. He addresses your dead son and says "Rise!" Your son listens and responds. You and your son are restored. Death and broken relationships are pushed to the fringes. Life and love are gathered around Jesus.

So where do we see death, despair and hopelessness? What things bring us low? What places do others gather (maybe to comfort, maybe to gawk and maybe to fall into despair) around us? Where do we ritualize the death, broken places and lost dreams? What if Jesus dared to walk right in (invited or not). What if Jesus spoke life where we were intent on seeing death? What if Jesus brought life, hope and healing? What might our response be to such an infusion? How might we live and breathe and speak differently if we truly believed that death doesn't have the final word? That broken dreams don't have final sway? That there is more to our future than broken-down decomposition and chaos winning the day.

And how might we live and speak and carry ourselves in order to bring that good news to the wealth of widows of Nain that we encounter daily? Do we grieve with them? Of course. Do we offer a hope that seems beyond reason as well?

God, our times, futures and lives eternal are in your hands. Help us rest and love and live in you. Amen.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

e-vo for week of May 25

Dearest e-votees,

Jesus is in Capernaum, Peter's hometown. There is a modern church there built up over the ruins of Peter's mother-in-law's house (remember when Jesus healed her fever?) Peter is thought to have lived in those ruins too. Jesus, also, is thought to have lived in those ruins as well. Nearby there is a synagogue. You can walk around on floors that date back to the time of Jesus. The walls are rebuilt around 2nd century or so. His first public ministry act was in the synagogue in Nazareth where he quoted Isaiah and said that he was the fulfillment of that prophecy. Jesus then goes to the synagogue in Capernaum. In Luke 4:31-37 Jesus is teaching in that synagogue and he drives out a demon. Jesus is demonstrating his authority in several ways in these accounts.

This week's healing of the centurion's slave continues to evidence the authority Jesus commanded.



1 After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. 3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4 When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, 5 for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” 6 And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7 therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” 9 When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

Luke 7:1-10, NRSV

Jesus is approached by Jewish elders. These elders were sent by a centurion, a Roman military official. They ask on behalf of the centurion that Jesus would come and heal this highly valued slave. In trying to assure a "yes" from Jesus they tell him that this centurion built the synagogue. The very synagogue that Jesus was in in Luke 4 casting out demons. They told Jesus that he was deserving because of his love for the Jewish people.

Jesus is approached by friends of the centurion. They were sent by him to tell Jesus not come under his roof. He says that he is not worthy. He says that Jesus only needs to speak the word for the slave to be healed. He bolsters this approach with an appeal to his practice and understanding of authority as a Roman soldier.

Jesus is amazed by his faith and grants the healing.

In 2011, the Roman Catholic Mass was altered as explained below: (source: Will Catholic Mass changes cause mass confusion?)

One example of that shift is in a line familiar to Catholics at the height of the Mass, just before Communion. “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed,” Catholics have said for decades. This weekend, those words change to, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

(thanks to Rev. Leah Stolte-Doerfler for reminding our text study of this response as part of the Mass)

This response is a liturgical way to acknowledge that we aren't worthy to receive Jesus (under our roof, in our lives, in our mouths, in our ears, in our world...) but that if Jesus would speak to us (under our roofs, in our lives, in our mouths, in our ears, in our world...) that it brings healing to our souls. We are in need of Jesus. He comes reliably in Word (in our ears) and Sacrament (in our mouths, on our skin). These encounters with God bring healing to our souls. Jesus abides in our homes, sends us and meets us out in the world and calls and equips us to live out our vocations. When we have ears to hear we find healing for our souls.

The truth is we are unworthy of God. We have no rights or abilities to order God around. But God, out of love, comes into the world bringing healing. This healing is for us and this healing is for all. As we live into our baptisms and are sustained at the table and through the word we are healed and equipped to be healing agents in the world. Death, sin and the devil fall under Jesus' authority and they are driven out. We are sent and commissioned under Jesus' authority and are sent out. We are blessed to hear Jesus and all his sayings in the hearing of the people. Healing abounds.

God, give us faith. Help us receive your help without deluding ourselves into thinking we can cajole it from you. Help us come to a place of healing. Stir us to give you glory. Amen.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

e-vo for week of May 18

Dearest e-votees,

This Sunday is Holy Trinity Sunday.

We remember that the nature of God is community. We remember to that we have been invited into this community. When we were made in the image of God (imago dei) we were made with the capacity and need to be in community.

May you be blessed with your community this day. I know they are blessed to have you.



1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5, NRSV

We can stand in God’s presence. God has graced us into the divine community. We are justified by faith. We are at peace with God through Jesus.

Scripture is full of people falling to their knees or faces in the presence of angels and God. They cower in fear or bow in reverence. The default mode seems to be a hybrid of abject terror and stifling awe. But we can stand with God. I would expect we still might get woozy in the knees when those moments and times come but the fear can be gone. Perfect love drives out all fear. Our love is far from perfect but God’s love is just what we need.

God has graced us into the divine community. That is because we had no way to earn it or demand it. If we did try to earn it or somehow pay God for it our offerings would be insulting trinkets compared to the surpassing value. Some have said mercy is not getting what we deserve and grace is getting what we do not deserve. The only way we are into the divine community is unabated, amazing grace.

We are justified by faith. We have no legal standing or defense before God. All of us have sinned and fallen short. None of us are beyond condemnation in our own unregenerate selves. We are like the repentant thief (Dismas) who says (in Luke 23:40-41, NRSV) “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Were we to get what we deserve for our deeds we would be in a world of hurts. But Jesus received what he did not deserve (the dark side or costly side of grace) so that we would get we do not deserve. And we receive this justification by faith. And even faith is a gift and work of the Holy Spirit. It all comes by grace.

We are at peace with God. God has made peace with us. Not as the world gives but as God gives. Peace is ours. When sufferings come we can rest in the peace and boast. We can be at peace knowing endurance is coming. We can be at peace knowing character is being formed. We can be at peace with a hope that runs contrary to the world. God’s love has been poured into us as a work of the Holy Spirit. It all comes by grace.

God, help us abide and delight in the divine community that you have opened up to us. Thank you for the peace and the justification that you have given to us. Help us find ways to share that gift with all. Amen.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

e-vo for week of May 11

Dearest e-votees,

We have been chosen by God to be adopted into God's family.

We are children of God.

God's perfect love drives out any need for fear on our part.

Thanks be to God.



14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Romans 8:14-17, NRSV

"We confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves..." On our own, without God's saving work and without the indwelling Holy Spirit we are ensnared by sin. Struggling in our own power against sin, death and the devil is like fighting quicksand--we only get more deeply buried. If we are our only hope than we are surely doomed.

But Jesus comes into the world to rescue us. Jesus comes in to show us the Father. Jesus comes to bring us into the divine community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is sent to us to fill and inspire us, to comfort and cajole us and to remind and lead us. As the Holy Spirit leads us we are reminded that God has made us God's children. As we experience the indwelling love of God in the form of the Holy Spirit the spirit of slavery and fear yield to the spirit of freedom and joy. God has chosen us to be God's own. The Holy Spirit continues to testify with our spirit that we are indeed in God's family.

In a world that strives for individual freedom and choice we do well to remember that we will choose poorly when given the choice. We seek our own "good" at the expense of others and at the expense of right relationship with God. Jesus came into the world and took on the nature of a slave. He chose well seeking our good at the expense of himself and his own right relationship with God. God chose us and sent God's Son into the world to save us. God Jesus chose us and died on the cross for us. God Spirit chose us as a place to dwell and lives in us to remind us and stir us to faith.

Jesus says it this way in John 15:16:

You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.

God, thank you for loving us. Thank you for choosing us. Thank you for calling us. Thank you for saving us. Help us to bear fruit that will last all to your glory. Amen.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

e-vo for week of May 4

Dearest e-votees,

This Thursday is the day in which the church commemorates the Ascension. Forty days after Jesus rose from the dead Jesus departs from this earth. Jesus leaves the disciples but not alone. The Holy Spirit will descend upon them with fire and prophecy, promise and vision in 10 more days.

Where is that promised Holy Spirit now? Where do we look? How do we wait? How do we trust? Blow through us again and again dear Holy Spirit.



1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Acts 1:1-11, NRSV

This is the second installment of the writings to Theophilus (literally God (theo-) lover (-philus)). Maybe Theophilus is a literal person. Maybe it is addressed by Luke to all of us who are being drawn into a love relationship with God. Quite possibly it is both-and.

Jesus has done all that was required. He did what he did on the cross--defeating sin, death and the devil. Even in the throes of an excruciating death he prayed for enemies, welcomed sinners and cared for his disciples and his mother. Jesus bore what we would not and could not. Jesus destroyed the separation between us and God which was symbolized in the tearing of the sanctuary curtain. We are free to enter God's holy presence and, as Peter Mayer sings, God is Loose in the World. The time-splitting, history-changing insertion of God becoming one of us and stepping into the world is done.

But, before Jesus returns, he lingers for a while to comfort and assure his disciples. Jesus shows his wounds. He breaks bread with his disciples. He feeds them familiar food with fish and bread. He reminds them of all he had told them that has come to pass. And he reminds them of what he has told them that is yet to happen. He spends 40 days, a very holy and significant number, with his disciples showing them convincing proofs. And he tells them to wait. To wait for the Spirit which will guide and comfort them, remind and cajole them, fill them and spill from them.

The disciples see Jesus leave and all they can do is look to where they saw him with longing eyes and slacked jaws. How about us? Do we ever get unsettled by the moves of God. We stare at what we have known or where we have last seen God and perhaps miss looking just where God has been pointing? The Holy Spirit is alive and loose in the world. Have we the courage and the faith to see her stirring? We are people clothed and bathed in the Holy Spirit. God dwells in us and sends us to dwell in the world. We are sent to be witnesses near and far, to those like us and to those particularly unlike us.

Sometimes we might feel far from Jesus. We might wonder where God has gone and why God has left us. But Luke assures us that the Holy Spirit is coming and has come and we are never abandoned by God. May we wait and trust in times that the Spirit seems far. May we testify and be bold as the Spirit empowers.

Holy Spirit, have your way with us. Animate us and inspire us and remind us and cajole us all to the glory of God. Amen.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

e-vo for week of April 27

Dearest e-votees,

There are two appointed gospel texts for this Sunday. We will look at the one in which Jesus promises the Holy Spirit (setting us up for anticipating Pentecost).



31 23 Jesus answered [Judas, not Iscariot] , “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

John 14:23-29, NRSV

I am arrested by the phrase "I do not give to you as the world gives." It certainly begs the question: "How does the world give?" The world gives with an expectation of return. The world might take you out to lunch but there is generally an expectation for a return meal in the not-too-distant future. The world might send the college kid a care package or a gift card but there is certainly a strong hope that the student would send back home a nice thank-you card or at least make a phone call. The world might make a benevolent gift but certainly wouldn't turn away a commemorative sign or tile or brick or perhaps a name emblazoned on the new building wing. The thought of giving without expectation of return is a foreign concept to much of the world.

If you have the time and inclination I would invite you to give something in a way that it cannot be returned to you. An anonymous donation. A simply unreturnable gift. I enjoy, on occasion, paying for the car behind me at the drive through window. That is closer to how God gives to us. We may know explicitly where something came from--then again, we may not. But we can't begin to pay God back for how God has blessed us. The closest we can get is to find some way to pay it forward. If God has forgiven us 10,000 talents (see Matthew 18:21-35) then surely we should be able to find a way to forgive 100 denarii. If God has given us every morsel of food, every swallow of drink, every breath of air and all things else then surely we should be able to share food and drink with those in need and care for the environment so all can have better air to breathe. If God can give us peace, not as the world gives, then surely we can do all that is in our power to be at peace with our sisters and brothers.

God doesn't give to us in order to get back. That is most certainly true. But maybe we can give something back to God by paying forward what God has given us. The blessings we receive equip us to bless others. That seems akin to the kinds of words Jesus spoke. And in tending to the words that Jesus spoke we declare our love for God.

It brings my mind back around to 1 John 4:19-21:

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (NRSV)

God, give us eyes, hearts, minds and inspirations to love our sisters and brothers and in doing so show love to you. Amen.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

e-vo for week of April 20

Dearest e-votees,

For this week's e-vo we'll be looking at the gospel text appointed for this coming Sunday. You may recognize this as the mandate of Maundy Thursday.



31 When [Judas] had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:31-35, NRSV

Jesus is preparing to leave his disciples on their own for a while as he faces Good Friday. He will be back among them again for forty days after Easter then he will leave them again. He doesn't leave them completely on their own but equips them with the Holy Spirit. Nonetheless, after three years of working intently with them he backs away and lets them live into and put into practice his teachings. As he prepares to go he tells them what they should be doing with their energy and their time: loving one another.

In John 15:12-17 (later in the same discourse) Jesus intensifies this command by saying: 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another."

Jesus is preparing to lay down his life for his friends. In truth he is laying down his life for his enemies too. Through his sacrifice those who were by nature at enmity with God are brought into a restored and renewed relationship with God. For God so loved (agape-ed = sacrificial love that is so much more about the lover than the beloved) the world that he gave his Son. Jesus lays down his life in order that we might be restored to friendship with God. That is the work of the cross. That is what Jesus did. That is what is offered to us. It costs us nothing but cost Jesus everything. Jesus came to bring life and love to a world ensnared in death and hatred.

We are called and invited to participate in loving one another. To relationships stained with death and hatred we believe and pray that life and love might be restored. We grow in our abilities to lay ourselves down in order that our friends (current or future) might be blessed with life. The fruit that we bear is becoming more Christlike. It is not something we attain so much as something we allow God to bring forth in us. Jesus has chosen us. Jesus will not forsake us. Jesus will continue to shape us into being disciples. As that takes place we will undoubtedly grow in love for one another.

Some might say: "What does Jesus mean by one another?" or "How wide does the circle go of people that we should love sacrificially?" If we are stuck on that question we aren't done growing yet. Jesus serves communion and washes the feet of Judas. Jesus prays for those who crucified him. Jesus seems more concerned about Mary and John than himself as he is dying on the cross. Jesus seemed to transverse every separation and boundary he could to befriend enemies and to invigorate death back to life. If we are truly his disciples how can we strive to do less?

God, you have loved us fully, bring us to the fullness of loving you and one another. Amen.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

e-vo for the week of April 6

Dearest e-votees,

For this week's e-vo we'll be looking at the gospel text appointed for this coming Sunday. Thanks, again, to colleagues and text study folks for many of the points throughout this devotion.



21 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

John 21:1-19, NRSV

If I were to ever make a Jesus movie (which is highly unlikely) there would be a point in which the fire over which Peter is warming his hands while denying Jesus (John 18:18) dissolves into the fire over which Jesus is making breakfast for Peter and the other disciples (John 21:9). The word in Greek is the word anthrakias (which is the root for "anthracite" one of the stages of coal formation). It only appears twice in the Bible--once at Peter's denial and the other at Peter's reinstatement. Such a powerful linguistic bookend which can get lost in the translation.

Consider some of the other parallels and connections:

3 denials and 3 "Do you love me"s? (although in Greek the word for love changes around, lost in translation again).

Jesus being hung out naked and exposed on the cross as a result of the denial, Peter hanging out naked and exposed at the reinstating.

Jesus feeding the disciples bread and fish (a familiar meal shared with 5,000 + and 4,000 +)

Jesus being led where he didn't want to go but he went willingly being glorified (John's sense of "glorify"), Peter being led where he doesn't want to go and glorifying God (church tradition holds that he was crucified upside down out of respect for Jesus not deserving to die as he did which is connected for many with Peter stretching out his hands).

The call of the disciples to leave their nets and follow Jesus in the beginning of some of the gospels, the call of Jesus on Peter, post-resurrection, to follow Jesus.

This scene at the beach is the echo and resonance of so many other significant moments throughout Jesus' ministry. But perhaps most important in all of it is that Jesus is the prime actor and initiator. The disciples revert to familiar fishing. Jesus meets them there. The disciples fail to find success in their own strength. Jesus gives them direction and encouragement and they find abundant results. The disciples had scattered and denied. Jesus gathers and reinstates. Jesus continues where he left off stepping into the fearful huddle of disciples from last week and breathing into them the Holy Spirit by feeding, sustaining and granting vision and purpose to them this week.

God, come and find us. Feed and equip us. Send us and sustain us. Amen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

e-vo for week of March 23

Dearest e-votees,

For this week's e-vo we'll be looking at the gospel text appointed for Maundy Thursday.

May your lingering in this holiest of weeks be blessed.



13 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them....

Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:1-17, 31b-35, NRSV

The community of Christians has a guiding principle, an over-arching directive, a default mode, an abiding intention, a standard to which are called to pursue. It is the commandment that Jesus gave in John 13:34: Love one another. Jesus speaks this "mandate" (which is a linguistic descendant of "Maundy" which comes from the Latin for command) to those gathered for the Last Supper--the disciples. So perhaps Jesus was just speaking to these 12. That they should love one another. But surely if one of them should have asked "Lord, who can we exclude as we love one another?" (meaning how far is far enough when it comes to loving others) Jesus would have told them something like "70 times 7!" or the parable of the Good Samaritan. Whenever we try to put constraints on God's love or find a place where we can stop loving others Jesus broadens the scope and the depth.

Each and every disciple would go on to fail Jesus. All slept when he asked them to keep watch with him. All scattered when danger came. Peter spectacularly failed Jesus by promising to never deny him and to go to the death for him yet soon thereafter denied Jesus 3 times. Judas spectacularly failed Jesus by betraying him and setting him up for capture and arrest for 30 silver pieces. Yet all of them received the Passover meal which was transformed and infused with new meaning as it became the Lord's Supper. And all of them had their feet washed (even though Peter resisted just as much as he could). The love that Jesus is showing through the humble act of footwashing transcends the worthiness of the owner of the feet he is cleaning. The act is more about the nature of God's reign of love and service than it is about those being loved and those being served.

I can't help but wonder if Mary of Bethany (Martha and Lazarus' sister) didn't capture Jesus' imagination in the previous chapter of John. Mary came up to Jesus and broke open a container of expensive nard (worth a year's wages) and anointed his feet, wiping his feet with her hair. She poured herself out (literally and figuratively) in service, love and adoration. Now Jesus is doing the same with his disciples. He is ready to be poured out like a drink offering on the cross but first he pours himself out in service. He has received love from Mary and now he is empowered and inspired to give love to those he encounters--even the most unworthy. His prayers for forgiveness for those who crucified him are a continuation of this love pouring out of himself for the sake of others.

We have been loved fully by Jesus. Jesus has given us and the world all he could give. We have deserved so much less than he has lavished upon us. We can now be inspired and empowered to love all those we encounter--particularly those who are unworthy. We can pray for our enemies, welcome those who have spurned us, set a place for those who have wronged us and offer ourselves in service to those who would never think of returning the favor. We do this not because we are so great or so faithful but rather because Jesus who is so great and so faithful tells us to do no less.

God, give us ears to hear and hearts to respond to your greatest commandment--to love others. Amen.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

e-vo for week of March 16

Dearest e-votees,

Our appointed gospel text for this coming Sunday's procession with palms (if you are observing Palm Sunday) is from the gospel of Luke.

I'm particularly grateful to colleagues (former and current text study participants) who helped inform this e-vo.



28 After [Jesus] had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38 saying,

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Luke 19:28-40, NRSV

Triumphal entries certainly weren't unique to Jesus. You can read in some detail about the sorts of entries Romans would make celebrating their victorious leaders (see Roman triumph). One fascinating aspect of the Roman triumphal parades is the concept of "memento mori" which, you know if you pored over the "Roman triumph" entry, was the introduction of an intentional reminder of one's mortality to temper the parade. A messenger of some sort was introduced to remind the conquering hero that this momentary glory would fade and that the grave was waiting.

Jesus is entering into Jerusalem. Some view him as a conquering hero or messiah. Those would be the ones laying out cloaks and waving palm branches and lauding Jesus. Some of those would even be aware of fulfilled prophecies (riding in on a donkey's colt, coming from the Mount of Olives, disrupting the Temple, etc., etc.) that further the argument that this might be the messiah. Some view him as a threat towards established religious practice and perhaps the tenuous peace constructed with the occupiers. This would be the religious leaders--scribes, Pharisees and elders--as well as King Herod. Some would see this rabbi as another threat or disturbance to be put down. This would be the Romans including Pontius Pilate. How do we view this Jesus who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey those many, many years ago?

What do you think Jesus was thinking and feeling as he rode in on that Palm Sunday? How did he view himself? What do you think he was experiencing? Was he drinking in the worship and adoration or thinking about the cup he would pray to pass? Was he painfully aware that this same crowd would be the one crying out for his crucifixion in a few short days? Perhaps he was hearing the "memento mori" whispered into his ear. For those who come to church on Palm Sunday and then again on Easter with nothing in between they miss the deep pain and pathos of betrayal, denial and agonizing death. Jesus chose to endure the bleak days. Perhaps we would do well to linger in the hard days of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday (and Easter Vigil if you are so fortunate) with Jesus.

May your entry into the observance of Jesus' triumphal entry and the entirety of the Passion be blessed and holy.

God, help us linger with Jesus this week. Thank you that he never forsakes and endured these hard, hard days for our sakes and for the sake of all people. Amen.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

e-vo for week of March 9

Dearest e-votees,

Our appointed gospel text for this coming Sunday is Mary anointing the feet of Jesus in the gospel of John.

This is, in case you care and lost track, number 15 in the countdown to the end of e-vos. I hope and pray it blesses you.



1 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

John 12:1-8, NRSV

The 11th chapter of John details Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. This anointing of Jesus feet was referred to proleptically ($50 word for before it happened) in John 11:2. The Mary we are talking about is the sister of Martha and Lazarus who are both present but silent in this account. Martha is serving (not too surprising given the Mary-Martha account in Luke 10:38-42). Lazarus is at the table (perhaps still a little tuckered out from being dead for four days and then resuscitated). Mary is off doing her own devotional type thing (also not too surprising given the Mary-Martha account in Luke).

This may or may not, some debate, be connected with the sinful woman anointing Jesus at Simon the Pharisees's house (see Luke 7:36-50) and or Simon the Leper's house (see Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9) (detailed in Simon the Leper entry at Wikipedia). I'll let you ponder those connections and possibilities if you are so inclined.

What we see is an enormously expensive amount of nard (1 pound, worth 300 days' wages--half again as much as the disciples estimated it would cost feed 5,000 people in the gospel of John). Mary pours this expensive gift over Jesus' feet and wipes his feet with her hair. She is even beyond sitting at Jesus' feet choosing "the better part". Perhaps she is showing affection and love for the return of her brother. Perhaps she is preparing Jesus for his own imminent death. Perhaps she has rightly discerned who this Jesus really is.

This is not a text about neglecting the poor (as Judas alleges). It is a text about the sacrifices of a broken (open) and (perhaps) contrite spirit (see Psalm 51). And clearly Jesus does not despise her.

God, give us hearts for worship and adoration like Mary of Bethany. Amen.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

e-vo for week of March 2

Dearest e-votees,

Our appointed gospel text for this coming Sunday is the beloved parable of a man and his two sons.

If you want to see a powerful song ("When God Ran" by Benny Hester) interpreted in video fashion I would encourage you to check out:



1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to [Jesus]. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3 So he told them this parable:

“There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32, NRSV

This text is unique to Luke. It is a deep and evocative picture of the profuse and lavishly given love of God. The father is a God-figure. We are found in and among the brothers. Often people will relate more to one brother or the other. They will find in their own story rebellion, wandering, brash requests, reckless living, moments of desperation and groveling in hopes of a new way and so relate to the younger brother (and also the tax collectors and sinners). Or they will find in their own story faithful service, long-suffering, righteous indignation, unjust favoritism and willful non-repentance and so relate to the elder brother (and also the Pharisees and the scribes). The truth be told we are both younger and older (aka simuls adulescentior et senior).

But the point isn't really about who we are. Or who the sons were. Or who was treated fairly or not. The point is the lavish, relentless, embarrassingly effused love of the father.

The younger son deserved nothing when he came up to dad and said "You're like dead to me. Give me my inheritance." Yet the father lavished his inheritance (1/3 of the estate, his brother as the eldest would receive a double share of 2/3). The son exhausts his inheritance (during famine and, if you believe the elder's assertions, wild living). He comes back trying to find some way to eke out an existence. His father is looking and sees him from far away (his father was looking with the diligence of a shepherd with a missing sheep or a woman who has lost her coin--see verses excised from this Sunday's lesson). I expect his father spent many days looking out across the horizon. When the father sees his son he runs to greet him. This was undignified behavior for a patriarch of a family. Almost as undignified as granting a covetous and disrespectful request from your son. But he runs and when he reaches his son he offers hugs and restoration and disallows a canned statement of apology. He slaughters the fatted calf and bedazzles him with a ring and a robe. And then he throws a party (more expense lavished on a wayward son). The younger son gets not what he deserves but what the father's heart decides to give. It isn't really about the son but about the father.

The elder son catches wind of the party and comes up to the dad. He asserts "I'm like dead to you." He insinuates "You have never given me anything." (untrue) and when "your son" (not "my brother")returns you give him everything (also not true). The father had no obligation to answer to the elder son. It was his money and he could do with it what he wanted. Nonetheless, he pleads with his elder son to come and be part of the party for "your brother" (not "my son") (also rather undignified behavior for a patriarch). He reiterates the punchlines of the lost sheep and lost coin parables. The elder son gets not what he deserves but what the father's heart decides to give. It isn't really about the son but about the father.

If we want to draw something out of this parable for our own lives it is this: "It isn't really about us but about God." We can't wander far enough away to escape God's love. We can't live the good enough life to merit God's love. We are comprised of the shortcomings of both the elder and the younger. God's lavish, reckless, undignified love is for us and for all and it is more than enough. Thanks be to God.

God, thank you for running to us. Help us learn to accept your lavish, reckless and undignified love. Help us learn to lavish reckless and undignified love on all those we encounter. Amen.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

e-vo for week of February 17

Dearest e-votees,

Our gospel text has a feisty exchange between some Pharisees and Jesus. They warn him to flee from Herod. Jesus fires back about that fox Herod and then laments the chicks that refuse to be gathered under his sheltering wings. Do you suppose we are any more willing to be gathered under Jesus' protection than those of his time?



31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Luke 13:31-35, NRSV

There are two dynamics that keep us from letting Jesus gather us under his wings. Either of them can be detrimental to our spiritual vitality.

Allowing Jesus to gather one of us under his wings is us owning the fact that we can't make it on our own. Our old Adams and old Eves are prideful and don't want help from anyone else. If God offers us protection than it just might mean we can't do everything we want just when we want to just the way we want it (it certainly means that). We resist. We're like little toddlers who are so sure we know what is best and most interesting and are often unaware of the hazards. We are not willing to willingly submit to God's shelter.

Allowing Jesus to gather us as a brood under his wings means that we have to tolerate being in a tight community with others. We may find all sorts of reasons to disqualify other members of God's brood from inclusion in the group (as if it was our choice). I'm pretty sure that when we get to heaven and if we are able to discern who's who there will be people who are just as surprised to see us there as we are them. I'm pretty sure that's true when we gather under Jesus' wings too. We are not willing to willingly receive others who are just as in need of God's shelter.

So Jesus leaves us to our own willful existence outside of his shelter. He leaves us until we say "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord." which could be a Palm Sunday reference and could be an end times reference. It is probably a both/and. When we get near Holy Week we might be more amenable to God sheltering us and making room for others. We start to remember that the ground around the cross is level terrain. When we get near the end of our lives and draw near to entering into a resurrected existence with God we will see things more clearly and again might be more amenable to God sheltering us and making rooms for others.

In the meantime we scurry around the barnyard--tempting fate with the foxes that lurk in this world. We can grieve God in our rebellion. We can easily lose life and limb exercising our freedom. We take some deep measure of our fate into our own two chicken feet.

God, "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord." is most certainly true. Help us speak this and live the anticipation of this. Coax us under your protective wings. Give us grace and wisdom to make room for all others who might come. Thank you for finishing your work on the 3rd day. Help that gracious and painful truth always give us shelter and comfort. Amen.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

e-vo for week of February 10

Dearest e-votees,

Hello friends. Things continue to wind down with e-vos. There are 17 more posts (after this one) and then this devotional will retire (with 500 posts). As the last few weeks clearly show I have had trouble maintaining the weekly rhythm. Soon it will be time to bring this venture to a close.

For those of you who have faithfully read and occasionally responded to the thoughts and images shared here I am grateful. I don't know quite where my urge to write, speak, express itself will manifest itself next. We'll see where my heart and whimsy of the Holy Spirit will lead.

I pray that your time of Lent would be deep, meaningful and would bring you more fully into the celebration of the empty tomb that is coming.



4 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written,

‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’

11 and

‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Luke 4:1-13, NRSV

The overriding theme of this temptation is that the devil is calling into question the relationship between Jesus and God--"If you are the Son of God..." Skipping over the fact that the voice from heaven just rang out with "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." (see Luke 3:22) at Jesus' baptism. The devil is trying to drive a wedge between Jesus and God the Father.

The devil tries to get Jesus to prove the relationship with God is intact by performing a miracle (turning stone into bread) to satisfy his hunger. The devil is tempting Jesus to give in to his fleshly desires (satisfying hunger) and perhaps stroking his ego that he can do such a "trick". Jesus refuses to engage this.

The devil tries to get Jesus to turn from dependence on God the Father and instead let the devil grant him the glory and authority of the kingdoms of the world. Jesus, again, refuses to engage this. The devil may have had such an authority (although lying is his native tongue) but Jesus keeps his eyes firmly fixed on God. Jesus resists temptation for worldly power and perhaps the ego strokes of worship and prestige from those of this world.

The devil again calls into question Jesus' relationship with God the Father. The devil quotes scripture (and perhaps sings a refrain or two of WOV 779 "You Who Dwell in the Shelter of the Lord (On Eagle's Wings)") trying to get Jesus to put himself in peril to see how much God really loves him. Jesus again refuses to engage saying it is not right to test God.

This exchange shows us how the devil works and what works to resist the devil.

The devil comes at people (including us) insinuating that their relationship with God is questionable. God calls us God's own at baptism yet the devil will try to drive a wedge between us and God. The devil will chip away through our fleshly needs and wants, our desire for respect, influence and power, our desire to have God prove God's love to us (as if the cross wasn't sufficient). The devil seeks to stroke our egos all the while snatching us out from under God's tender care. Our best bet is to not engage the devil (as Jesus shows). If and when we do engage and misstep we can cling to God's grace which is bigger and more saving than any blunder of ours is damning. That is indeed the good news of the empty tomb. Thanks be to God.

God, teach us to lean hard into the relationship you have begun and will bring to completion with us. You love us and save us. That is sufficient and superior to anything the devil might wave under our noses. Amen.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

e-vo for week of January 13

Dearest e-votees,

Here is a belated edition of last week's e-vo. The Wedding at Cana was our appointed text.



1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

John 2:1-11, NRSV

Consider the Wedding at Cana as follows:

There was a community-based celebration that is going on. This was an affair that lingered over time. It was a culmination of joys and hopes and dreams coming to pass. There were undoubtedly many rituals and traditions that were incorporated and bore much significance. Many people were invited. Jesus and his followers were there.

The wine ran out. The party stopped thriving as it once did. There was likely some measure of shame/embarrassment/grief over things coming undone. Certainly people grew anxious and started scrambling to get things under control. At some point Jesus was invoked.

Protestations. Jesus responds with "Why do you involve me?" and "It isn't my time."

Miracle through earthen vessels There were some vessels lying around. Vessels that might have been easily written off. These vessels had some part in ritual cleansing. These vessels were brought into the mix through the prompting of Jesus. There was treasure to be had in those earthen vessels.

Through those earthen vessels. New life came into being. Renewed joy came into being. An epiphany (revelation) of Jesus came into being.

Consider where God has placed you:

There is a community-based celebration that is going on. You are part of a community that has existed over time. It is a culmination of joys and hopes and dreams coming to pass. There are undoubtedly many rituals and traditions that are incorporated and bear much significance. Many people have been and are invited including you. Jesus and his followers are there.

The wine runs out. At times the party stops thriving as it once did. There is likely some measure of shame/embarrassment/grief over things coming undone. People grew anxious and start scrambling to get things under control. Sometimes blame and accusation comes to the fore. Sometimes despair and humiliation. At some point it is wise to invoke Jesus.

Protestations. We may echo Jesus with things such as "Why are you bothering me with this?" or "I have put in my time already" or "Now is not a convenient time." or "What concern is this situation to me?" We protest.

Miracle through earthen vessels We are those very earthen vessels that can be found lying around. We and others are vessels that might easily be written off. We are those vessels that have deep roots in ritual cleansing (you know, that whole baptism thing). We vessels are brought into the mix through the promptings of Jesus. There are treasures to be had in us earthen vessels.

Through those earthen vessels. In us and through us new life comes into being. In us and through us renewed joy comes into being. In us and through us an epiphany (revelation) of Jesus comes into being. There is a reason that we are lingering in a sort of Cana. God has work to do in us and through us. Despite our protestations and despite what we might deem our humble and plain appearance God has life, joy and revealing work to do in us and through us.

God, help us be open to all you would do in us and through us for the sake of others. Help us be open to all that you would do to us and through the earthen vessels of others. Help us experience your revealed glory and grow into a deeper belief. Amen.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

e-vo for week of January 6 (Epiphany)

Dearest e-votees,

Apologies for jumping ahead a few fortnights last week and using the appointed gospel for January 31.

This week we are going to use the epistle lesson appointed for Wednesday, January 6 which is "Epiphany of our Lord".

The church season of Epiphany is all about God's work being revealed. The word "epiphany" literally means "to shine on" and figuratively means "to be revealed". The Sundays of the season of Epiphany are bookended with "Baptism of our Lord" this coming Sunday and "Transfiguration Sunday" which is February 7.

May our days and our time out in the world be full of epiphanic moments.



1 This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, 3 and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4 a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5 In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6 that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

7 Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. 8 Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; 10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.

Ephesians 3:1-12, NRSV

Epiphanies come from without. They are a gift from God to reveal God's truths in God's timing through God's chosen vessels. We don't merit God's revelation. Which means we are free from trying to earn God's attention and revelations. Saul (renamed Paul) was very earnest and zealous in trying to merit God's favor. He did so by persecuting the church and serving as a coat-check and sideline approver of the stoning of Stephen. His intent may have been good but his actions were not. But God chose him (even though he was self-admittedly "the very least of all the saints") to be a recipient of God's revelation.

There is a poem by Ed Nesselhuf who was the director of prison congregations in South Dakota called "What Was It Like for You Dysmas?". It conveyed that if Jesus could pardon the repentant thief (Dysmas) than surely there was hope for us too. This is the classic argument from the greater to the lesser. If God could do such a mighty work than surely the smaller similar works are well within God's possibilities. If God's grace was broad enough for a condemned criminal hanging next to Jesus on a cross than God's grace must surely be big enough for us too.

Perhaps Paul is offering us similar hope. If God's grace is big enough to see past Paul's errors and missteps and to reveal the gospel to the likes of Paul than surely there is hope and assurance that God will revealed to us as well. God's grace is broad enough for Paul (nee Saul) and it surely large enough for us.

Since we know that God loves all, including us. Since we know that God chooses to be revealed to all, including us. We can be bold in the faith. And we can be confident in the faith. Not in our own merit or rock-solid faith or deservedness but in the one in whom we have faith. Jesus has poured out boundless riches of grace, mercy, love and forgiveness. Thanks be to God.

God, help us never to declare or dismiss as unworthy those to whom you have chosen to grace with revelation--including ourselves. Shine your revealing light into our lives. Help us to shine our lights so that people may see and give glory to you, our Father in heaven. Amen.