Monday, October 29, 2007

Saints and Sinners Luke 6:20-31 and Luke 19:1-10

Jesus, as a person, brought hope and the promise of salvation with him into many lives.
Early on in Jesus' ministry Luke said that Jesus gave sermon on a plain challenging Israel to rethink justice. This sermon given on a plain is God's plan to turn the whole world over for good.
To the poor Jesus promised the kingdom of God. He told the hungry, "you will be filled." He told the weeping that they would laugh. And he offered one final blessing in Luke 6:22-23“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

Jesus sermon on the plain ended with a prophecy of woe to the rich, to those who do not know hunger, those who laugh, and lastly to those who only hear good words about themselves.

Its tempting to sit (if you believe you're entitled to be called a saint) reveling in such words of judgment against the wealthy and the comfortable. Maybe you like the image of wealthy and well praised learning about despair and need. But Jesus salvation wasn't limited by any human standards of worthiness or unworthiness.

Jesus ministry didn't stop with the announcement of woe to the rich and the full. He went to the poor and to the rich. Jesus was repeatedly sought out by the hurting and he dared to seek out a man like Zacchaeus: a tax collector who'd grown rich collecting money for the Romans and extracting a little extra for himself.

Jesus called to Zacchaeus and announced, "I'm coming your house today." We make list of who is a saint and who is a sinner. Jesus has his own standard of righteousness. He comes not for the ones we think deserve heaven; but for those he would die to save. Salvation came to Zacchaeus house in the person of Jesus; just as it comes for all of us who he died to save.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Reformation Required John 8:31-36

My apologies to any non-Lutherans who read this blog. The last Sunday in October is our day to commemorate the reformation and the freedom we have in Christ. If you were looking for thoughts about Pentecost 25c please try

Freedom came to earth in the flesh and blood person of Jesus. He came to give us true freedom to trust both our earthly lives and our eternal lives into God’s hands. True freedom comes from believing in Jesus and nothing we do or say. Our faith holds on to the promise that Jesus is God for us yesterday, today, and always.

Looking back at the Reformation these days day. I see a great chance to celebrate our freedom as Christians. Today we remember a struggle that happened 500 years ago. It was a fight about Christian Freedom. Trouble is most people in the 21st century don’t have a clue what we are talking about when we say Reformation. It's just ancient history. But its effects are still shaking up churches of all denominations across the globe today.

For people on the outside the church looking in the Reformation was a great big bloody church fight. Some look and say that it cost too many lives and caused too much hurt over too many generations. This fight happened between 4 and 500 years ago. There is no one alive today who deserves any shred of blame or bears any responsibility for it. It is as part of our church’s heritage; but it is not our fight.

Today we live with the message of the reformation still in our ears. That freedom in Christ comes from faith. We can’t earn that freedom; only Jesus can offer it to us. As a believer inside the church today I see the Reformation as a struggle about finding freedom for troubled souls. This is not a day to poke holes in other believers or to make their lives miserable. Today we need to remember our freedom in Christ. It was the freedom that Luther and the other reformers gladly risked their lives to preach to the world.

Above all remember that the reform of the church started unexpectedly on October 31, 1517 when a pastor and teacher named, Martin Luther, stood up to call for debate about the way the church in his day worked. Maybe you’ve heard that he went to the chapel door at Wittenberg, the University town where he taught, with a list of 95 Theses. He posted them on the door, right along side of other notices. He left an invitation for other scholars to debate the practice and life of the church. I don’t believe he envisioned the wars and bloodshed that would come because of the reform he sought that All Hallows Eve. I think he only wanted an open honest discussion about God’s Word in his time.

Luther’s intentions were quickly forgotten as the Reformation started to spread faster and farther into society than anyone could have imagined. This was no scholar’s only debate. The debate started first in Saxony and then spread throughout Germany. Shopkeepers, craftsman, farmers, nobleman, princes, soldiers and even the clergy began to debate about God’s Word. News of the debate reached Rome. Soon the pope and his agents became enraged that a German monk would dare challenge their authority. Resentment about the medieval church ran deep in German society. Many latched on to what they heard from Luther. Other’s viewed Luther’s reforms as too limited. They wanted to overthrow everything and level society once and for all. But that wasn’t Luther’s goal. His goal was to help troubled consciences find peace in Jesus.

Luther’s criticism was clear and simple. Men, trying to raise money to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, were sent to Germany, and other parts of Europe selling indulgences. They were selling papers promising eternal freedom in exchange for money. Luther argued that the church couldn’t sell such freedom. Faith in Jesus, he argued, was the only thing needed to enter the kingdom of God. The church was broken. Luther believed it needed to be fixed. Luther’s call to reform was so clear that it still rings out all around in the Christian church today.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Pestering God: Luke 18:1-8

Prayer is part of walking with Jesus. God receives all kinds prayer: formal and corporate prayer, everyday and conversational. Its our part of communication with God as Father. But its not a one way street. God sometimes starts the conversations and other times replies when we start talking. That's called revelation; and prayer to God can't exist without faith in the God revealed to us and for us in the Word.

Okay, you say prayer keeps you connected to God just as we stay connected when we listen to the Living Word revealed in Jesus. But what if you're desperate. A quick reading of this story lets you see that Jesus isn't talking generally about prayer and our relationship to God when things are okay. The woman, Jesus was talking about, prayed out of desperation. We, as God's people, are invited in Luke 18:1-8 to imagine our relationship with God in very human terms.

The woman needs a judge to move on her case. And he doesn't care. But she pesters and pesters until he finally moves on her case. Jesus tells us to pray like this, day and night, for justice. The issue at hand for the widow is justice. Jesus is inviting us to pray, like this, about what matters.

Parenting two 4 year old girls has given me a little insight into God's communication with us (revelation) and our communication with God (prayer). My daughters have a wonderful ability to ask for all kinds of things and on occasion they have the ability to do more than just ask, sometimes they even say thanks, with out prompting. As a dad I expect to hear, "Daddy, I'm thirsty. Can I have some water please?" and its always wonderful to hear, "Thanks dad." in response. I can imagine that God the Father hears many of these prayers from us.

Parents know there are other pleas that really matter. They come in tears and screams that aren't neat and tidy requests bookended with "please" and "thank you". Some prayers come from deep in the soul and call to heaven for a reply.

I'm learning that there aren't always easy answers to these requests. Sometimes the why or the how questions my daughters ask are way out of my league. Sometimes they pester and push hoping to get what they want, and sometimes they pester to get something they really need. Jesus calls on us to pray without ceasing when it matters trusting that we will be heard.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Foreigner Returned Luke 17:11-19

Ten leper's met Jesus as he entered a village. Luke says the 10 kept their distance; calling out, Ἰησου̂ ἐπιστάτα, ἐλέησον ἡμα̂ς Jesus, master/leader be kind/merciful to us. Jesus saw them and responded. "Go to priest and show him that you are clean."

Luke says that on their way to the priest all ten were made clean. One came back thankful that he was cleansed of his disease. The other 9 moved on back to their lives but this one, a Samaritan, came back to Jesus to offer thanks.

The world is full of hurting people calling out for mercy. As a pastor in a church with a fund to help hurting people we often get calls for a little help with gas, rent, or a utility bill. Some people call repeatedly looking for help thinking that their need is unique. We limit our help to once or twice a year. Our funds can go only so far; and often after saying no to one repeated request we find that we can help many others.

Most people who we help don't ever come back. Some return just to ask for help again (and sometimes again and even again). And every so often some one returns to say thanks.

Jesus knows the hurt and broken parts of each person. We all come to God seeking healing, cleansing, and wholeness. Liturgically our words in the Kyrie plead,

Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy
Jesus mercy extends far beyond mine. He reached out to heal and told the hurting to go on with their lives. Some return realizing the mercy/kindness that God has shown and ask for more. Some return to God giving thanks and praise.

It's easy to get caught up in our problems; but in God's mercy, given again and again, we are given new hope and even a reason to give thanks and praise.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Increase our Faith Luke 17:5-10

Jesus' friends asked him to increase their faith. They weren't alone in their request for more faith. I ask God for the same thing. Listen in your prayers, do you find yourself saying, "God give me faith to do..." or "God give me faith for..." Maybe you think that all you need is a little more faith and you'll finally be at peace with God and you'll finally be able to do everything that God asks of you.

Jesus responded to his friends' request for more faith explaining that just a little faith, the size of a mustard seed, would be enough to tell a Mulberry Tree to go and be planted in the sea and see it happen. "How preposterous," we say back to God in our fear and doubt, "faith can move a bush?" Jesus reply is simple. All you need is speck of faith, a mustard seed will do. The mystery here isn't whether Jesus' friends had enough faith; rather the mystery of faith is that it isn't ours at any time and that it moves so quickly in and out of our lives.

Faith is a gift. We try to keep faith, growing, nurturing, and tending it; but the faith that moves mulberry bushes and stone hearted people to love is always a gift. Jesus invites us to meet him and see him and know him and discover daily that little gift of God that can do so much.