Showing posts from March, 2013


May the mystery and joy of Easter Sunday sustain you for weeks to come.  May the resurrection light awaken hope within you.  May the love of God's emphatic "YES" to life echo within your life.   As always may the traces of God's grace be with you.
Alleluia blessings~

Silence of Saturday

How do you deal with silence?
When you have to strain to hear the still small voice of God.
Last night at the Holy Friday service, the pastor referenced words written by a Jewish prisoners at a Nazi Concentration Camp:
"I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love,
even when there's no one there.
And I believe in God, 
even when he is silent."

On Saturday there was silence among Jesus' followers.  Grief hung heavy in the air.  Chaos of thoughts raced around their minds.  And they wondered, where is God in all of this?  How could the One we follow, the One who taught, healed, laughed, ate, and shared his life with us, be dead?

Most of us deal with enough grief in our lives, perhaps we'd rather the church not talk about it.  Yet, I think, our faith offers us a profound insight into grief that we thirst for.  The church offers not a solution, but an invitation.  An invitation into community.  We need not suffer alone.  We need not grieve alone.  On t…

Atonement - part 2

Yesterday's post concerned the most popular understanding and answer to the question, "Why did Jesus have to die on a cross?"  The usual answer is one of substitution, sacrifice, and satisfaction.  Jesus serves as a substitute for our sin.  Jesus serves as a sacrifice for our brokenness.  Jesus action on the cross satisfies God's need for justice.  In this theory of atonement, God's justice trumps God's love.

Yet, I think God's love trumps God's need for justice.  The above oversimplification has those two qualities of God in the opposite order.  In substitution, sacrifice and satisfaction, God's justice holds the trump card over love.  I think it is the other way.  God is willing to be in relationship with us, not because of what Jesus did, but because we are incarnate in the image of God (Genesis 2).

Jesus' birth and baptism reflects that truth.  God claims Jesus as beloved, just as God still claims each person baptized today.

Jesus life …

Atonement - take 1

The Death of Jesus
44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land[l] until three in the afternoon, 45 while the sun’s light failed;[m] and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. 47 When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.”[n] 48 And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49 But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Tomorrow is Good Friday.  Of course, we only call Friday "good" living on the other side of Easter. The women who stood at a distance from the cross saw nothing good as they watched Jesus die. They could not hold his hand.  They could not comfort him.  Death makes all those aro…

Communion - Part Two

At communion, we taste God's grace not only through the broken bread, but also through the cup of forgiveness poured out.  If Jesus had only offered his friends...who would desert him, deny him, and betray him...the broken bread, it would make sense.  After all, these people are suppose to be his friends, but perhaps feel more like modern day frienemies!

But Jesus doesn't only talk about brokenness as the darkness and shadows of the night fell upon the Last Supper table.  Jesus also offered hope.  In some ways giving these disciples a cup of forgiveness is wonderfully mysterious.  Jesus offers forgiveness and hope hours before most of the disciples (perhaps save Judas) really knew they would thirst for that hope and forgiveness.

So it is with us.  How often do we really think we need hope and forgiveness?  We'd rather get caught up in believing we've got everything under control and taken care of.  Thanks anyway, Jesus, but I really think this new ipad will quench m…

Communion - Part One

The Institution of the Lord’s Supper

14 When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15 He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I tell you, I will not eat it[a] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.[b] 21 But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. 22 For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” 23 The…

Monday- Preparation

7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus[b] sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.” 9 They asked him, “Where do you want us to make preparations for it?” 10 “Listen,” he said to them, “when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters 11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher asks you, “Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.” 13 So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

The plot of Holy Week is one that thickens with tension each day.  Jesus has rode in to the cheers and hymns of the Palm Sunday parade.  People cast off their cloaks.  Casting off cloaks was symbolic that they opened their lives to the One who comes humbly on a d…

Psalm 118, Take Three

Psalm 118

21 I thank you that you have answered me
    and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
    it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
    O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!
26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
    We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God,
    and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
    up to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
    you are my God, I will extol you.
29 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.  It is the most sacred time of the Christian year.  This week is the culmination of preparing our hearts for this roller-coaster of a week.  Within this w…

Psalm 118, Take Two

Psalm 118
10 All nations surrounded me;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
11 They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
12 They surrounded me like bees;
    they blazed like a fire of thorns;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
13 I was pushed hard so that I was falling,
    but the Lord helped me.
14 The Lord is my strength and my might;
    he has become my salvation.
15 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
16     the right hand of the Lord is exalted;
    the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”
17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
    and recount the deeds of the Lord.
18 The Lord has punished me severely,
    but he did not give me over to death.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
    that I may enter through them
    and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord;
    the righteous shall enter through it.

The psalmist…

Singing a Psalm

Psalm 118

1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;     his steadfast love endures forever! 2 Let Israel say,     “His steadfast love endures forever.” 3 Let the house of Aaron say,     “His steadfast love endures forever.” 4 Let those who fear the Lord say,     “His steadfast love endures forever.” 5 Out of my distress I called on the Lord;     the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place. 6 With the Lord on my side I do not fear.     What can mortals do to me? 7 The Lord is on my side to help me;     I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. 8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord     than to put confidence in mortals. 9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord     than to put confidence in princes.
Over the next couple of posts, I will dwell with Psalm 118.  These words help to set the stage for Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday on March 24.  What I love about the psalms is, like Isaiah, the writers do not mince words.  They are honest, heartfelt, raw, and offer…


Click here to read Isaiah 66
Today is Sunday, the day of worship.  As Christians we worship on Sunday, the day we claim Jesus rose from the dead.  Every Sunday becomes a mini-Easter.  When you think of worship, what images come into your mind?

A long sermon?

Worship, at its heart is centering us on what is worthy.  "Worship" is the combination of "worth" and "ship".  Giving worth to something or someone is vital.  Paul Tillich often said that there was no atheist, that all of us have something of "ultimate concern" or something of worth at the center of our lives.  For some it is our job, for others it is a certain sport/event, for others it is relationships.

Worship reminds us that the center of our lives is God who comes to us in the form of Jesus.  God takes on human flesh.  Such an action reminds us that God understands and experiences all the joy and pain that comes with this life.  Jesus joyfully ate and drank.  Jesus car…

Nearing the end of the Road

Isaiah 64 and Isaiah 65
We are nearing the end of our journey through Isaiah.  After weeks of listening to Isaiah, after hearing Isaiah's visions of accountability, responsibility, and hope; after several posts trying to shine a light on our whole life (blessedness and brokenness), the one word I would use to describe Isaiah is "bittersweet."  
There are bittersweet moments in our life.  Moments where joy and pain intermingle and are tangled in unimaginable ways.  Most of the time I think we act as though joy and pain are so separated in our lives that we can only feel one of those emotions.  But the truth in my life is that I feel the two simultaneously all the time.  A friend tells me he is moving out of the area for a new job...bittersweet.  I notice my kids are getting older....bittersweet.  I realize I am going older...bittersweet.  Something at church goes well while another event goes astray...bittersweet.
Some suggest that one of the realities of our world is tha…


Click here to read Isaiah 63
A wise spiritual proverb goes, "It is solved by walking."  There is something cathartic about walking.  Sending that mixture of stress and anger that is coursing through my body down to my toes and out onto the sidewalk.  The sidewalk doesn't seem to mind too much.  
Isaiah talks about walking in the vineyard (which remember from previous posts was an image for the People of God) and smashing grapes so that the juice stains the feet and robes.  Which reminds me of the "I Love Lucy" picture above.  Of course, Isaiah 63 is not nearly as humorous as the Lucy episode.  You sort of shrink down in chair as you read, weighted down with guilt.  
It is a thin line between shining a light on our brokenness and crossing over to being consumed by our guilt.  That was a thin line that our Protestant ancestor, Martin Luther tried to tight rope walk his whole life.  One story about Luther, when he was a Catholic monk, goes that he spend hours...ho…

Dream a Dream

Click here to read Isaiah 61
Click here to read Isaiah 62
These two passages speak of a world that would have seen like a dream to the People of God.  For Isaiah to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, it not just about all things coming up rainbows and chocolate rivers. The year of the Lord's favor was the year of Jubilee, when slaves were to be set free; debts were forgiven; and no one farmed for the whole year.  It was year long Sabbath to remember to trust in God in all times. 
Isaiah 61 actually is the passage Jesus preached one of his first sermon on in Luke.  If you click on that link, you will see that the sermon does not end well.  Let me give thanks that to date no congregation has ever tried to hurl me off a cliff in response to a sermon of mine...maybe I am not doing something right?  Jesus proclaims the year of the Lord's favor, which sounds so good.  Until the people realize that quoting from Isaiah means the Lord's favor includes everyone, even the fore…

Good morning

Click here to read Isaiah 60
"Rise and Shine," parents around the world say to their children.  We know that with the rising of the sun there is a new day, a new chance, new opportunities, and new challenges.  The process of waking up takes time; for some longer than others depending on the time of day.  I like to wake up early and get going.  I like the mornings, when the sun first peaks over the horizon.  This is my kind of vision from Isaiah.
I realize that not everyone likes mornings as much as I do.  But "rise and shine" is less about the time of day and more about your attitude.  Even if it is do you go about the rest of your waking hours?  In fact, some could say that since the days of creation go from evening to daytime, that those who are night owls are more like God who created at night.
Rise and shine also refers to how the People of God came back from Exile.  They came back with expectation and hope.  Expectation that God would guide them and…

Holy Conversations

Click here to reach Isaiah 59

If you read Isaiah 59 is a conversation.  It starts with God laying out the charges and the people respond.  Notice their response.  They don't try to defend or deflect what God says is happening.  They accept and admit they did wrong.

The truth is we all make mistakes.  We all say things we shouldn't.  No one is completely innocent and no one is perfect.  The only way to reconcile is to talk openly and honestly with each other.  Isaiah 59 is a holy conversation, which (by the way) so sounds like something Robin would say to Batman.

The church knows all about conversation.  The church has an advance degree in talking.  But the question remains, what are we really saying??  Where does all the talking get us?  I recently enjoyed a blog post by David Lose about productive meetings.  David is right that we need to be more productive.  I would also add to David's post that meetings in church need to be less about talking and more abou…

Who are the ones in our midst

Click here to read Isaiah 56

The bags are all packed, the People of God are ready to go.  And somewhere in-between Babylon and arriving back into the Promised Land, Isaiah preached about justice.  In the face of living in exile, in a time when anger can simmer on low for days upon days, justice can sound very different than it does in Isaiah.

Think about the scene.  Here is Babylon, the bad guys who conquered the Promised Land, destroyed the temple, and transplanted the leaders of the People of God back to Babylon.  Now Babylon has gotten a taste of its own medicine, it has been supplanted by Assyria.  What goes around, comes around.  Or revenge is a dish best served with the chilly glare of self-righteousness.

Only Isaiah won't play along.  He proclaims that God believes even foreigners will be welcomed on God's holy mountain, the sacrifices of foreigners will be acceptable, and these people will be accepted as the original People of God.  That is a tough message when you are…

Well...that was unexpected

Click here to read Isaiah 57

Click here to read Isaiah 58

Here Isaiah goes again...being all confrontational.  Right after admonishing the people that they will need to accept foreigners, now Isaiah starts to criticize the Israelites for their way of worship.  Isaiah says I know back in chapter 40, I spoke of comfort and an easy path home, but you still have to watch out.

I think sometimes we'd prefer faith to be more predictable and pre-packaged.  Why all the criticism and critique?  Why can't we just try our best and leave it at that?  Isaiah won't let the People of God rest.  I don't know how the people acted in Isaiah, but I wonder if today that message would clear out the sanctuary faster than the final "Amen."

Let's be honest, we don't expect our faith to be challenged much in church any more.  There are too many options, the mainline Protestant church has lost too many people, and most pastors feel like they are on thin ice...and can hear the s…


Click here to read Isaiah 54

Click here to read Isaiah 55

Isaiah 54 promises everlasting peace.  Isaiah 55 promises a feast set by God.  What I find so interesting and challenging is the question in 55, "Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread?  And your labor for that which does not satisfy?"  That is one of those questions that echoes across the centuries right into my own life.  Why do I work so hard for those things that do not bring me peace or closer to God?

After all I can work tremendously hard for other's approval and compliments.  I can put in hour after hour doing work that takes me away from my family.  I can turn to those things that do not satisfy my spiritual thirst for a connection with God.

It is difficult to resist the lure of consuming.  There is always a shiny, new product on display at the store.  There is always something promising to bring peaceful dinners with my family if only I go to a particular restaurant.  This is the promise …


Click here to read Isaiah 53

Isaiah 53 is often read on Holy Friday.  It is read from the lens of Jesus suffering on the cross.  One of the powerful parts of going chapter by chapter through a book of the Bible is to hear what comes before and after a passage.  How can the beautiful feet have just brought good news of peace and freedom to the people in exile, and now all of the sudden we are talking about suffering?  There is a disconnect between these two chapters for me.

It is jarring when our joy and dancing is turned into mourning.  It is unsettling when laughter is suddenly turned to tears.  Perhaps that is why we don't like Holy Week.  The festival joy of the Palm Sunday parade turns to betrayal, desertion, and denial of Jesus' closest friends on Maundy Thursday.  Then, of course, the shadow of the cross on Friday.  We don't deal well with death in our world, especially when there is so much to do to get ready for Easter Sunday: eggs to color and hide, hams to prepar…