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.