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.