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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPen1jQrlhU.



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.