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Archive for February, 2016

Sunday, Lent 3

February 28, 2016 Leave a comment

Psalm 63:1-8

So, I have to confess to anyone who might be reading these posts.  (There haven’t been a lot of comments, retweets, etc.  Certainly not the conversation around the Word I’d hoped to inspire.  Then again, I didn’t really think we’d “go viral.”  If I was cat singing these posts, then, maybe.  And that’s the world we live in.)  My confession is, I gave in yesterday and started to schedule the posts so that they would be there in the morning.  I was frustrated with myself that I didn’t have them up early enough in the day.  I figured there had to be a way to do that and, it turns out, there is.  That’s the thing with doing something every day, it has to be done every day, whether you’re tired, or have something come up, or don’t feel like it, or aren’t particularly inspired.

“That’s life,” my dad would say.  It is what it is.  And that’s Lent, too.  By now, if you’re following any sort of a Lenten discipline, it’s might be kind of weighing on you, getting tougher.  Hopefully, this Psalm helps.

We know the Psalms were Israel’s prayerbook and songbook.  We know Jesus quotes some  Psalms in He verbal sparring match with Satan in the wilderness.  It’s not hard to see Him using other Psalms, like this one today, even if the Gospel writers don’t tell us explicitly so.  This Psalm has us looking to the temple in Jerusalem where God’s power and divine glory dwelt, at least in ancient days, not since it was rebuilt in the days after the Exile.

But it’s in John’s Gospel especially where the glory of the Lord re-inhabits the temple, in flesh and blood of Jesus.  John 8, Jesus goes to the temple and says, “I am the Light of the World!”  And come to find out it’s during the festival of the dedication (aka Hanukkah, the festival of lights) that Jesus says this.  I’m very unsure of some Christians who so desperately want the Jews to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.  It’s a misreading of the entire NT to want this.  Jesus is the temple.  The Psalms anticipated not just the temple, but but the coming of God’s glory in the flesh.  Where Jesus is, is where we can come into His presence, behold His glory, be satisfied on the rich food served there, the Lord’s Supper, and find sustenance for this weary world.  Fed by Him, we are built up into the Body of Christ and go out into the world to be part of God’s work of redeeming it.  A way station on the pilgrim path.

God is doing this.

 

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Saturday in Lent 2

February 27, 2016 Leave a comment

Luke 13:1-9

This is certainly not “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild”.  These words are shocking.  “Jesus, what do you think about those poor folks from Galilee that the Romans murdered when they went to Jerusalem?”  And His reply, isn’t, “Boy, that’s a real shame.  We should get a group together and run these Romans off.”  It is instead, “Unless you repent, the same will happen to you.”

This is why it’s so important to read the context of a passage.  Jesus has been preaching and teaching and healing and casting out demons, most of the stuff a Messiah should be doing.  He’s been talking about God upending the status quo.  He’s been talking about how He has come to rescue God’s people, and now, He’s hinting that there are some who will not heard this message, who will not be rescued because they won’t have the rescue He’s providing.   This is a stark reminded that judgment is coming for those who will not have Him.

What should the people in this crowd repent of?  Repent of the way of the world, the way of politics and violence and power and wealth.  They were looking for a new king to help them bash the Romans.  What they got was one who healed the sick, cast out demons and warned them of a greater problem in life than  Roman oppression.

Many on Jesus’ way to Jerusalem heard His message, repented, and followed the new way Jesus had shown.  Many more followed in the old way.  Shortly after the time of Jesus, AD 66, the Jews were led in a revolt again Rome, it ended in AD 70 with the sack of Jerusalem, the destruction of the “magnificent” temple of Herod, and as yet, never rebuilt.  It was a bloodbath that made this little incident of the Galileans murdered by Pilate look like a kindness.  Jesus knew it was coming.  Jesus knew the question about the Galileans was an attempt to prod him to Jewish nationalism.  He didn’t take the bait.

That way exists.  It’s not the way of Jesus.  Violent nationalism is never the way of Jesus.

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For Friday in Lent 2

February 26, 2016 Leave a comment

Luke 9:1-36

There is some confusion here about who Jesus is.  Herod is sure he beheaded John, so Jesus cannot be John raised from the dead.  The disciples report that others too, think Jesus might be John or Elijah or another prophet.

There is great confusion today about who Jesus was.  Some say He was merely a great teacher.  Others deny He ever existed despite historical evidence outside the Bible and the intrinsic historical evidence of this great movement called Christianity that resulted from something.

I subscribe to C.S. Lewis’ theory, “Lord, Lunatic, or Liar.”  He is one.  But He cannot be any mixture of the three.  Erhman is wrong.  Nobody dies for a legend they know to be false.

And so we are confessing with Peter.  “You are the Christ of God.”  I suspect we will have more and more opportunities to make that confession in the years to come.  God give us strength to do it.  And remember that when we confess just who Jesus is, it means we confess what He did.  He was crucified and rose from the dead.  His teaching is vitally important, yes.  His actions on our behalf, on behalf of the whole fallen world, that’s the real content of His teaching.  He is God’s Christ.  He is as Peter stated on Pentecost, both Lord [Kyrious, aka Yahweh] and Christ [aka Messiah].

Thanks be to God.

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Devotion for Thursday in Lent 2

February 25, 2016 Leave a comment

Luke 8:40-56

Two stories.  Both of them showcase the power of Jesus.  Yes, He has the ability to raise the dead.  And yes power went out of Him when the woman touched the fringe of His garment.  Readers, who would have Jesus only be a kind teacher who ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time, beware.  That Jesus is too small.

He is the one who says to those who face death, “Do not fear, only believe.”  The one who raised Jairus’ daughter, was raised on the third day.  Dead could not hold Him and death cannot hold those who are His.  But what about all that time we live before death?  That gets messy doesn’t it?

The fear is that Jesus will treat us like others treat us when we show them we are not perfect, when we show them our rough edges, our brokenness.  When we show Jesus the toxic sludge that we have experienced, He does not shy away.  He reaches out, calls us daughter, (or son) and sends us away restored and at peace.  I’m thinking about people who have been abused.  People who have been hurt by others.  People who have been traumatized by violence.  People who the rest of the world shuns, Jesus seeks and welcomes.

Don’t be afraid, just keep believing.  Jesus has the power to make things right.

 

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Reading from Life Together

February 24, 2016 Leave a comment

The bright love of Christian service, agape, lives in the spiritual community; the dark love of pious-impious urges, eros, burns in the self-centered community. In the former, there is ordered, Christian service; in the latter, disordered desire for pleasure. In the former, there is humble submission of Christians one to another; in the latter, humble yet haughty subjection of other Christians to one’s own desires. In the spiritual community the Word of God alone rules; in the emotional, self-centered community the individual who is equipped with exceptional powers, experience, and magical, suggestive abilities rules along with the Word. In the one, God’s Word alone is binding; in the other, besides the Word, human beings bind others to themselves. In the one, all power, honor, and rule are surrendered to the Holy Spirit; in the other, power and personal spheres of influence are sought and cultivated.

Bonhoeffer, Bonhoeffer Works, Vol 5, 39–40.

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Wednesday in Lent 2

February 24, 2016 Leave a comment

Luke 8:1–39

I’m looking at the second half of the reading today, especially the part of the disciples in the boat with Jesus.  It’s the part I can most easily identify with right now in my life so it’s the easiest to pray my way inside of it.  That may be a funny way to talk but it’s not a bad way to pray, to see ourselves, in this case, as one of the disciples inside the boat that stormy night.

Have you been there?  In a storm, in the dark, in the midst of fear and doubt and grief and panic and God seems to be sleeping!  There seem to be two things going on here.  The disciples have enough faith to wake Jesus up but they don’t have enough faith to let Him sleep.

I have never thought there was any shame in praying, “Master, we are dying here.”  The psalms are filled with these sorts of prayers.  “I’m in it up to my neck, Lord.  Wake up!  Help!”  We believe in a heavenly Father, and Luther always encouraged us to approach Him as a dear child would approach their dear Father.

And Jesus wakes up and answers their prayer, does He not?  Yes, He offers some commentary about their apparent lack of faith.  And we want to say, of course we trusted You, that’s why we woke you up!  But I guess you’re right, too.  On some level we didn’t trust you or we wouldn’t have panicked.  And that’s about right, in my mind, of what faith in God is like.  Some have stronger faith, of course.  Others, like me, pray daily, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”

I see so many folks among us whose boats are threatened to be swamped.  I pray for them and my problems seem much smaller.  But God is good and He hears and answers our prayers, whether now or not, but always in eternity.  We are safe in Him regardless of what the world throws at us.  He is God and He is for us.  Jesus is the proof of that, then and now.

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For Tuesday in Lent 2

February 23, 2016 Leave a comment

Luke 7:18-50

Yesterday’s Reading — Luke 7:1-17

 

Well, it kind of fell apart yesterday.  I had some Internet connectivity issues and some surprises.  It was a Monday, and here we are.

There’s a great line in yesterday’s reading that ties directly with Vicar Presley’s Bible study from Sunday.  He mentioned the Greek word, splanchnidzomai, have pity, have compassion, show deep empathy.  And based on that definition alone, we wouldn’t make much of a fuss.  We might say, “Look, Jesus is being kind here.”  But there’s more here.  The word refers directly to the literal guts, intestines, liver, spleen, of a person.  In ancient Greek, the heart “kardia” was the seat of noble emotions like love and  courage and joy, the “splanchna” were the seat of more raw, blunt, or forceful emotions.  I want to make this point very clearly, pre-Christian Greek usage does not seem to have any connection to “heart-felt mercy” or some other “nice” emotion expressing divine mercy.  And in the NT, it is only used of Jesus, and characters in Jesus’ parables that are clearly God, the Father, like the waiting father in the parable of the prodigal son.

Here in Luke 7, Jesus sees the widow of Nain at her son’s funeral and it’s not too much to say His guts are wrenched He is deeply moved by her sorrow.  First, that’s how much God cares when we hurt, when we mourn, when our guts are wrenched in pain for losing someone we love.  God is not a passive observer of our goings on; He cares very deeply.  Second, Jesus knows what’s coming next for Him too.  Jesus sees the pain on this poor woman’s face and sees the pain that His own mother, perhaps already a widow, will endure at His death.  And raises the widow’s son in anticipation of His own resurrection.  Now to be sure, the widow of Nain’s son, dies again, when we do not know.  Jesus is raised to never die again.  But there are these links and anticipations  in Luke that make this such a wonderful exercise to read in Lent.

Jesus gives life.  Then and now.

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