Monthly Archives: June 2008

Monday – Pentecost 7

Note: My wife and I have completed the large part of moving from St. Louis to West Henrietta, NY to take the pulpit at St. Mark. I have internet back and I have an office. In the intervening days the lectionary shifted us in the Old Testament to Numbers – the immediate wonderings of the people of Israel after the Exodus. It has been appropriate reading for a migrant.

Numbers 22:1-22
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 21:12-22

The Old Testament reading is the set up for one of the funniest scenes in the Bible. The story of Balaam’s ass. (I’m assuming we get the second part tomorrow.) In the set up there are two intersting threads that struck me. First, all of this is taking place in Moab which is a famous enemy of Israel. Yet, Balaam is listening to the LORD. The text is YHWH. The LORD has not left even Moab without a prophet. Second, Balaam is listening the the LORD. Balal and the Moabites just want to manipulate God. That is a pagan understanding. The gods are celestial vending machines that you just have to insert the right change and bump the right way. Balaam tells the king sorry, can’t do it, the LORD said they are blessed. But, at their insistance, the LORD says go, but only say what I give you. The LORD is the LORD of all, even Moab, and the LORD is in a relationship with us. One where he speaks and instructs and wants us to ask and to listen. We don’t always listen, which leads sometimes to comic and sometimes to tragic results, but the LORD is in control.

May you ask and listen of the LORD this day.

Friday – Pentecost 4

Ecclesiastes 11:9 – 12:14
Galatians 5:25 – 6:10
Matthew 16:21-28

Today is the last day of the Ecclesiastes readings. Thank God for small mercies. The Preacher’s words are hard because as a 21st century American we are youth obsessed and always hopeful in the new new thing. And even through that cultural filter, we know instinctively that these words are true. The law is written on our hearts. The Preacher’s final summation, let you heart cheer over such things, but know that God is judge. Pure law. The Judge that terrified Martin Luther.

Becuase we all face that judge, we should as Paul says, bear each other’s burdens. In the end, the burden in the same, in helping others we also bear our own burden, we all go to the judge that hidden God. But as Christians we have a great revealed joy. That judge we dread when hidden has been revealed as Christ himself. The good shepherd who gave himself for us. We don’t have to fear. We aren’t in the dark as the preacher of Ecclesiastes becuase everything has been revealed to us in Jesus. So bear on anothers burdens and fulfill the law of Christ – the man who carried our burden.

May the Lord grant you a willing heart to hear his Word and bear each others burdens.

Thursday – Pentecost 4

Ecclesiastes 11:1-8
Galatians 5:16-24
Matthew 16:13-20

Today is my oldest child’s fifth birthday. Love and joy are easily felt. Peace and patience are are sorely tested. In looking at St. Paul’s lists of vices and virtues, the works of the flesh and the fruits of the spirit, the time nature of the words is striking. The vices give instantaneous feedback. The pleasures of fornication are in the moment. The angry word feels good when expressed. The night drinking and carousing is living for the moment. The virtues are habits or character traits developed or revealed over time. A toddler must be God’s way of developing patience. Faithfulness can only be displayed long term, but can be lost in a moment, same with self-control. Peace can be felt in a moment, but when momentary, we know its insecurity. In a time of war, peace is an attitude toward existence and not a state of being – i.e.are we at peace with the way we deal with our neighbor. God is busy through His Spirit recreating for eternity. The momentary pleasures of vice have no place in that eternity.

May the Spirit, birthday by birthday, recreate us more and more in conformity with the virtues that last for eternity.

Wednesday – Pentecost 4

Ecclesiastes 9:11-18
Galatians 5:1-15
Matthew 16:1-12

Proof, signs, give me something I can see, taste, touch, smell or hear. Then I will know. But proof often deceives us, or even more common we want more of it. We shouldn’t downplay those things, Jesus didn’t. In Matthew’s narrative Jesus has been all around the region of Judea and Samaria and Galilee and even into the gentile regions of Tyre and Sidon. Jesus has been working miracles. These signs are what Jesus gave to John the Baptist as proof he was the Messiah (Matt 11:4-6). But here we have the Sadducees and the Pharisees demanding a sign. Did they miss the earlier ones? Do they not believe the crowds who witnessed them? More likely they were thinking, “we are the important people Jesus. We are the people your little movement needs to convince. Show us a sign.” The Kingdom of Heaven is for the poor in spirit. Those demanding signs, see the sign of Jonah, the cross. It is only through the humbleness of the cross that we get the resurrection. The Sadducees and Pharisees got their sign, but it became a stumbling block – the messiah can’t be crucified!?! But to those perishing, those lost and who recognize their condition, the cross becomes the humble gateway to resurrection.

May we all see the proof and may the Word keep us safe in a resurrection faith.

Tuesday – Pentecost 4

Ecclesiastes 8:14-9:10
Galatians 4:21-31
Matthew 15:29-39

Why does Matthew have a second feeding the masses miracle? Jesus feeds the 5000 a short time before this in Matthew’s narrative, but in today’s reading the number is 4000. The disciples pick up 12 baskets left over from 5 loaves and 2 fishes earlier. Here they pick up 7 baskets from 7 loaves and “a few” fishes. Is Matthew just playing with numbers? Ultimately, some of those questions are unanswerable. We don’t have enough information, or we are not close enough culturally to the original readers. One of the best answers is based on the location of this miracle right next to yesterday’s reading. Yesterday, Jesus appeared rough, unkind, or maybe in the words of our day, intolerant. The canaanite woman’s daughter was healed, but what about the rest of the non-Jewish world. Are they included? Will the table of the Kingdom be open to them? The answer is yes. Jesus, walking along the Sea of Galilee in gentile teritorry repeats his earlier feeding miracle. “I have compassion for these people” he says. We can get lost looking at the numbers. We can lose our way focusing on specifics and the exact way to do things. They are not unimportant, but the key to the story is that line, “I have compassion for these people.” The compassion of the Father’s Messiah did not stop at the border of Judea or exclude the Canaanite, the Samaritan or the Greek.

Lord, help us also to feel and to show compassion for all of your children.

Monday – Pentecost 4

Note: The Readings are coming from the two year lectionary originally based in the Book of Common Prayer.

Ecclesiastes 7:1-14
Galatians 4:12-20
Matthew 15:21-28 ESV

The Matthew reading is one of those that is so “full of stuff” that keeping it to 150 words is tough. A Cannanite woman, the historic and hated enemy of Israel is the main character. The OT echos with the insults and the warning not to marry Cannanite women. This one approaches Jesus, “Lord, Son of David”…and he did not answer, not a word. The disciples go to Jesus and beg him…send her away, she is bothering us. Jesus answers the disciples by turning to the woman and saying…”I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” (!?!) Where are the rebukes to the disciples? Where is the Jesus who answers prayer and is open to seekers? The woman is persistent. She kneels in begging, “Lord, help me.”…and Jesus answers with what sure sounds like an insult, “Its not fair to take the Children’s bread and throw it to dogs.” Is this the Jesus we knew, or know?

But this “enemy of Israel” answers, “Yes, Lord, yet…” Some translations have “Yes, Lord, but…” the point remians, but the amazing nature of the story is slightly altered by the “but.” This Canaanite woman is never confronting Jesus. Her answer is not a “yes, but” negation, her answer is larger. “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the master’s table.” This women fully expects that the scraps that fall are more than enough to heal her daughter. She does not argue for a seat, but believes the scraps are more than enough. “O woman, great is your faith.”

In an egalitarian era, it is hard to hear Jesus talk like that, maybe harder yet thinking of answering like this woman. I want my place at the table. I’ve got my rights. Yet, the Kingdom belongs to the poor in spirit. Paradoxically, when we demand less for ourselves, we are demanding more from God. When we are weak, He is strong. The scraps from the table are more than enough. “And her daughter was healed instantly.”

May the Lord help us all to live abundantly from His scraps until the heavenly feast.

Friday – Pentecost 3

Ecclesiastes 5:1-7
Galatians 3:15-22
Matthew 14:22-36

The scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ (Gal 3:22 NLT). The earth is like one giant prison. We all can feel the bars placed around us. Those things we don’t want to do that we do anyway. The law convicts us of those sins of thought, word and deed, what we have done and what we have left undone. But the gospel breaks the chains. The warden on this world has no power over Christ and those He has freed. In faith in Christ we have been taken from prisoners on death row. We have not just been set free to do it again. No, more than freedom we have been made heirs of life. By becoming a part of the body of Christ through the promise that prison of sin has no hold on us but instead we are aimed toward life. We are free to increase life by witnessing to the one who freed us.

May you experience the freedom of the Gospel that removes the chains of sin, death and that warden the devil.

Thursday – 3rd Week of Pentecost

Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:3
Galatians 3:1-14
Matthew 14:13-21

The law and the gospel. That polarity is the bedrock Lutheran understanding. The reading from Ecclesiastes is law. The plight of men and women is to live and die in uncertainty. Even the oppressor has no one to comfort him. Evil multiplies. The law convicts and condemns and calls out the pointless nature of what we do – whether you believe in God or imagine Him to be gone. But God has not left us in that condition under the law. As Paul says in the Galatians reading, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law.” That is the Gospel, free and clear, without any worthiness in us, God fulfilled the law in Christ for us. In the feeding of the 5000 Jesus tells his disciples, “They don’t need to go away, you give them something to eat.” The law counts and catagorizes and divides and comes so easily to us. The diciples responded we only have 5 loaves and 2 fish. Jesus, he fed the crowd until they were satisfied and there were 12 baskets left. The gospel is abundantly sufficient. We all feel the law, but as Christians we have good news, the gospel, which we can give free and clear when we share it with our neighbor.

Thanks be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for delivering us from the law and sustaining us with His Gospel.

Wednesday of Pentecost 3

Opening note. I am using the daily two year lectionary which was in Lutheran Worship and originally in the Book of Common Prayer. I am taking it directly from For All the Saints, a prayer book published by the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau. It will read through most of the OT in two years and most of the NT every year.

Todays Readings
Reading 1: Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 ESV
Reading 2: Galatians 2:11-21 ESV
Reading 3: Matthew 14:1-12 ESV

When reading Ecclesiastes 3 it is hard not to think of the Byrds “Turn, Turn, Turn”. That is our experience. I’m not sure that the point of that song aligns completely with the point of the author of Ecclesiastes. Vanity, in the Hebrew “a breath” is what the teacher has labled everything. The “time to _____” verses end with What gain has the worker from his toil? He then contrasts this with eternity. When we focus overwhelmingly on the needs of the moment, they turn, and turn and turn from one thing to the next. And yet God has given us the thought of eternity. Whatever God does endures forever. Are we not God’s creation? Did not Christ rise from the grave? Resoundingly yes. We are God’s work. When we concentrate on that eternity, the turning of vanity, the stiring of a breath all find their purpose – delight in Lord and in his salvation.

May God bless your labor this day with enjoyment and eternity.