Share this blog!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Luke 19:1-10 Shake you up

The gospel of Luke is full of ironies. Those who seek their lives lose them. Those who refuse to give away their money walk away sad. The one who gives away his money rejoices. Those who sacrifice their dignity receive recognition.

Which brings us to today’s text: A short tax collector climbs a sycamore tree to see Jesus. But there is no way to receive the full meaning of the story without reading the chapter that comes before. There was a rich man in chapter 18. He asked Jesus what must I do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to give away his riches and he went away sad, for he was rich.

In a HUGE contrast, we stumble onto the story of Zacchaues, the short tax collector who climbs the sycamore tree. He doesn’t even ask Jesus what he must DO to inherit eternal life. It seems to be nothing but his encounter with Jesus that inspires him to give away his wealth.

There is a system in our world. It screams, “There is not enough for everyone, so we must hoard what we have.” If you have ever watched the show "Hoarders" you know what damage this idea can bring when taken to its extreme. Have you ever tried to pry someone’s hand open? I remember trying to get little dangerous choke hazard-like objects out of my toddler’s hands. Their little fingers can hold tight. It takes some skill to pry without hurting, doesn’t it?

Then there is the system called the Kingdom of God. This system screams, “There is enough for everyone, so share what we have.” The fingers do not need to be pried, because when one embraces this system, the wealth comes flying out the door.

There are two ways you can open a soda can. One is without shaking and one is with shaking. Without shaking you get a calm, cool drink. With shaking you get an explosion that cannot be predicted. Jesus shook up the soda can of Zaccheaus life. And when it was opened, there was no end of the spraying of joy to the entire community.

Let Jesus shake you up. Embrace the Kingdom of Abundance, let go the Kingdom of Scarcity. Enter into the Kingdom of God where the short become tall and the rich become poor.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Luke 10:38-42 Erma Bombeck or Martha Stewart

"My theory on housework is, if the item doesn't multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you?" Erma Bombeck

If Mary is Erma Bombeck, then Martha is Martha Stewart. Who am I? Everyone who knows me screams "Erma Bombeck/Mary." In my senior pastor days I have been known to prop up commentaries on cannisters of sugar while cooking. The only reason I cooked was to keep my kids from starving. I have never been known to cook for pleasure. While other girls were learning how to prepare meals, I had my nose in John Wesley's Journal.  Am I saying this is one of my favorite passages? Yes! Validation for neglecting housework!

I know kids today are not going to know who Erma Bombeck is...but my child did laugh when I told her last night that the title of one of Erma's books was If life is a bowl of cherries, why am I living in the pits?
My favorite of Erma's titles is The grass is always greener over the septic tank. Mary may have laughed at this title, but Martha was too busy trying to keep the house clean.

Really Martha, give it up. It's just going to get dirty again. If you make the bed in the morning, I promise it will be unmade at night. If you wash the dishes, they are just going to get used. Order takeout and sit at Jesus' feet.
This passage is about priorities. We get too busy to listen to Jesus. We get too wrapped up in nonessentials to care about essentials. Mary and Erma know what is important. Do you?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wanted Help from an Unwanted Helper Luke 10:27-37 Good Samaritan

While studying the passage this week I kept thinking that I must turn this around. We always see ourselves as the hero in the story; of course I would help that person. Of course I would stop. I would give. I would love. Or at least I thought that as an innocent child the first time I heard it. Then I grew up and realized how dangerous it was to stop and offer anyone help along the road. People get killed doing such things. What in the world was Jesus talking about? Is he really asking us to risk our lives to show compassion? (That is a sermon for another day, but I'm sure most of you can guess the answer based on the story of the Gospel.)

So that was my first response...but then my mind kept moving and I remembered the time (see my earlier post on this passage by search the Gospel of Luke, cause I can't figure out how to link back), that I was broken down on the side of the road and I received unexpected aid. Perhaps part of the message of this passage is in how we receive aid, not just how we give aid.

Jesus does not label the man going from Jericho to Jerusalem, but we assume it was a Jew. Most likely he is going from Jericho to Jerusalem because that is the last leg of the journey for Jews traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem while avoiding Samaria. The man is on the road because he is avoiding Samaritans. It was a dangerous road, and the travelers knew it. They knew the risk and took it anyway to stay away from those they despised.

The inevitable happens and the man is stripped, beaten, and left for dead. No one knows his social, religous, or economic status now. The "nice" people avoid him. They certainly don't want to touch an unclean, bloody body. They are on their way to religious service anyway and they don't have time to stop. The original listeners expected this. Of course no one expected Priests and their helpers, the Levites to show compassion to ordinary people. But they did expect the one who showed compassion to be LIKE THEM. The next guy to come along is supposed to be the average everyday Joe. Ouch.

Average Everyday Joe is the one beat up in the ditch. He is not the one stopping to help. The one who stops to help Average Everyday Joe is Average Everday Outcast. The very one Average Everday Joe hoped to avoid on the road is the one who stops and helps him when he is down. Average Everyday Outcast does not just stop, he is moved with compassion the way Jesus is moved when he heals (the only other time this word is used of another person other than Jesus in Luke is when the father welcomes the Prodigal home). He doesn't just stop to see if the guy is OK, he poors oil and wine on them (not cheap supplies here), bandages him (risking uncleanness or infection himself), and puts him on his own animal...this would be like putting the bruised and bloody in the backseat of your Buick.

He takes him to an inn and pays...and then he says, whatever other charges are encured, I will pay. Do you know what a risk that was? It's like saying, "Here's a blank check" or even better, "here's my credit card, use it however he needs it."

What happens when Average Everyday Joe awakens? That is the part of the story I wish Jesus had told! How did he feel when he found out he had been helped by Average Everyday Outcast?

Most of the time we think we are showing the grace of God when we work: when we stop to help, when we give money to a cause, when we feed the hunger, when we give a week for a mission trip...and that is true: we are.

However, this story tells me that sometimes we show the grace of God by receiving the love and care of another human, maybe even one that we had once despised.

Monday, Sept. 24, my 2 daughters & I took a road trip to a state park. After we swam for a while, we drove to a small SW OK town where I went to high school. I only lived there 2 years, but graduated from HS there....had not been back for over 10 years and neither one of my children had ever been there. It is a town of less than 2000, so there is not much site-seeing to be done...

After a brief hike cut short by the sound of a rattler in the grass, we got in the car and drove the 10 miles to M------. If you have never driven in SW Oklahoma or West Texas you cannot imagine what it is like to drive where the land is flat, flat, flat, and you see so much sky you wonder why God made hills. We are about to M----- with the music cranked as high as it will go and my 7-year-old says, "Mommy, I just heard a pop." I said, "So." She said, "Mommy the car is shaking." I still didn't notice anything...then I heard this awful sound...and well, turned off the radio. Blowout. We are in the middle of NOWHERE. M---- is about 2 miles I drove at 25 with blinkers on until we got to town. Pulled off in a parking lot and got out to look at my shredded tire. I started digging in the back of the station wagon for the jack and spare. A loud, old 68 Ford pickup with 2 guys in the truckbed rattles by. I see them turn around. The 2 guys in back jump out before the truck stops. They almost have the tire off the car before the hit the ground.

"Need some help?"

"Sure. But my jack is sorely lacking."

"Don't worry. We can lift the car if we can't get the jack to work. We ain't afraid of work."

The two guys bent over the tire are 20-somethings...wiry, tall, heads shaved, wearing nothing but boots and jeans. Tattoos cover their heads, faces, backs, chests, arms, hands....Their dad and older brother stood back and watched If this had been the city I might have been scared, but I figure if I started talking we'd figure out we went to high school together.

"I'm Kelly."

"We're the _______." They say in unison. I vaguely remember the family name. I ask them if the remember my brother.

The guy behind the truck. "Yeah I remember him."

They have the tire changed by now, and tell me where I can get a decent used tire for a fair price. They jump back in the pickup and tell me to follow them to the tire shop. So I do. Tattoed arms waving, they point to a tiny auto shop.

I don't know how you remember high school, but there are certain families that are labeled in small towns as losers. I don't know how it started with this family, but they had a certain label. It may have been something their great-grandpa did...but teachers and kids at school have a certain idea of a kid with a certain last name. Sometimes the kid chooses to live up to it, sometimes they try hard to overcome it.

Here I am in a tiny farming town in southwest Oklahoma living inside the parable of the Good Samaritan. Believe me, no one would have guessed the dust covered 90 Ford Taurus I drive is the car of a college professor. At the moment I looked like an Okie (I do say it proud, Vince Gill, but I did look like one). My station wagon is loaded down with junk cause we have been on a day trip at the lake. My 2 kids & I have just been swimming and digging clay. I had my hatch up and junk spread around on the gravel, just trying to dig for the spare tire. Did cars drive by and see my distress? Oh yes. Who was it that stopped? The guys that got beat up in school because their family was labeled.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

He has risen just as he said. John 20, Luke 24

I posted on my facebook page Saturday, "waiting for the Son to rise." Someone posted, "He already has."
I know that. However, liturgically, I was waiting for the resurrection after witnessing the Tennebrae, or service of Darkness Friday evening. The sadness had filled my heart, esp. due to a difficult situation of which I had been made aware Thursday night in the life of someone that I care about. I needed Jesus to rise. I needed to be reminded of his resurrection power. He answered. He arose. Just as he said.

Friday, April 2, 2010

It's Friday. But is Sunday coming?

A popular phrase among American Christians is "It's Friday but Sunday's aComin'"
To embrace the true meaning of Good Friday, we must embrace the pain the disciples felt. They did not know Sunday was coming. Their despair did not include a little note in the back of their heads that said, "Yes, but this sorrow will pass." True sorrow, true despair does not know hope. That is what they felt. Did he tell them he would rise? Yes. Did they listen? No. Would you listen if one of your friends told you they would rise on the third day? It has been a difficult day for me. I need Sunday. But first I must get through Friday and Saturday's pain.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wednesday of Holy Week. Jesus was bullied.

An educational website aimed at kids defines bullying in the following ways:
"Punching, shoving, and other acts that hurt people physically.
 Spreading bad rumors about people.Teasing people in a mean way.
Getting certain people to "gang up" on others."

I found this to be a description of the way Jesus was treated during Holy Week.

Luke 22:63-65 "The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, 'Prophesy! Who hit you?' And they said many other insulting things to him." (Punching, shoving, and other acts that hurt people physically. Teasing people in a mean way)

Luke 23:1 Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate.  And they began to accuse him, saying, "We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king."  (Spreading bad rumors about people. Getting certain people to "gang up" on others)

What does it say to us that our Lord and Savior was bullied?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday of Holy Week Isaiah 42:1-9

Songs of the Suffering Servant echo across the ages, through dark times and light, through hope and despair, we hear the sound of the Servant.

It is Tuesday. In two days he will eat the Supper. In three days he will die. In four days he will descend. In five days...well, we don't know that yet, do we?

Let us wait. Let us ponder the suffering of not only Jesus, but all of those who suffer in Jesus' name.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday Holy Week Isaiah 42:1-9

"I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness." Isaiah 42:6-7

Everything for which we hope has come to pass in Jesus Christ. Yet now we ponder, we hope, we wish he would be the powerful warrior prince. Monday. All our hopes are tied up in one Man. But the chief priests and scribes seek to kill him. What will Jesus do? Will He show them He is God?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Maundy Thursday Lent Year C

One week from yesterday will be Maundy Thursday. This is the day when we remember the last supper Jesus ate with his disciples. Our church will observe the day with a dinner, and then  a service in which we wash  each other's feet. Some churches may observe this regularly, but it was a new thing for our tradition a few years ago when we started. Of course its not required. One may ask a pastor to wash his or her feet, or ask a friend or loved one, or one may offer to wash another's feet. It's a holy occasion to get down on one's knees in public and wash someone's stinky feet. It helps us to remember his humility.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Holy Week is coming

Sorrowful anticipation for Good Friday
Happy anticipation for Easter
Holy Week is coming. Let us remember his Passion.

When I started observing Holy Week as an adult, I couldn't believe the meaning it put into the events of Jesus' last days for me. As I child of 7  I watched a movie about Jesus (can't remember which one) and remember I almost vomited when the whipped and killed him. It wasn't even at the level the "Passion of the Christ."   A teacher of mine read us The Day Christ Died once. I shook the entire time. I don't advise reading that book to children. I know we can't be shielded from the horror of the event. Over the years I have tried to push the feelings down. I avoided Good Friday services and any visual that had to do with the crucifixion. Now I believe  it is best to embrace the feelings of horror. It WAS the worst thing humanity could ever do. It was obscene and horrific and violent and gory. I tried to watch the "Passion of the Christ" when it came out in theaters. My students were asking about it. I felt I owed it to them. I went by myself. I sat behind a group of people that were laughing and joking and eating popcorn. I sat in front of a group who were loudly sobbing. I sat alone. I couldn't cry, the pain was too deep. Finally when they shoved the crowns into his scalp I left. I shook all the way home. I confessed to my class I couldn't get through it. I have never managed to finish it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

More on Palm Sunday Year C John 12:12-16

Today I was talking to my Biblical Interpretation class about the historical reasons behind Jesus' death. I was struck by the idea that he could have avoided Jerusalem during Passover...knowing it was already a hotbed of political strife, why did he go? Of course we have the theological and biblical answers...Luke 9:51 "And he set his face to Jerusalem." He made up his mind he would go, humanly knowing what Rome did with "insurrectionists." What was he thinking as he rode the back of the donkey into Jerusalem? For just a moment did he wish that he could accept the praise, use his power, knock Pilate and Herod off their thrones, and take over? I know, he settled that back in the Temptation narrative...but did it ever come back? We welcome him with open arms, and then turn so quickly. God, don't let me do that this year.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Liturgy of the Palms Liturgy of the Passion Year C John 12:12-16

The Triumphal Entry in the Gospel of John is placed strategically between Mary of Bethany's anointing of Jesus and the Greeks' wishing to see Jesus. Therefore, Jesus has been anointed for death--foreshadowing of crucifixion, and Gentiles begin to seek him--foreshadowing of salvation offered to all. Unlike Luke, John does not spend much time on the Entry.Only four verses set the stage for the pain and the passion. Mark's account gives us more material also. John seems to enjoy having people state the obvious without knowing why they are saying it.

The people proclaim, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord--the King of Israel!"

What is the obvious?
Jesus rides on the back of a donkey entering Jerusalem at Passover?
Mighty Messiah?
Military Mayhem?
Maybe More?

Expectations and hope fill the air. Palm branches wave. Some scholar say the waving branches of Palms stem back to Maccabean times, celebrating military victory.

What are my hopes this Palm Sunday? Do I wish for God to do violence to get revenge on my enemies? Do I wish for God to punish the "sinners" of the age?

Or do I expect God to forgive and forget? Do I expect grace to be offered to even those who stand in the crowd crying crucifiy him five days later? Do I realize I am in that crowd?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lent 5C John 12:1-8 Mary's Anointing of Jesus. "What if I gave it all?"

I've been meditating on this scripture for the past 2 days. The thought that keeps rising to the top is, "What if I gave it all?" Interesting that John places this passage directly after the raising of Lazarus. Mary's brother has just died, and she did not use this perfume on his body? I've never thought of that. She saved it for Jesus. And ask she pours it out, does she truly realize that his death is coming? Some scholars say she would have heard the evil heartbeat of the Jewish leaders who sought to kill her friend. She bought if for his burial, but she pours it on his feet before he dies. Is she telling Jesus she understands that he will give it all? Is she saying she is giving all she is because she knows he will give all he has? Why does Judas question her motives? There is always someone out there who will question one who gives without wanting something in return. For those who cannot do that, they cannot believe anyone else will. Judas believes everyone has a scheme like he does. Perhaps he thinks Mary is after a blessing.  Interesting that Judas will be the vehicle by which Jesus is sold into death. We know what his motives are.

What if I give it all to a crucified man?  There's nothing left he can give if he dies (according to Mary). Therefore, she pours out her year's wages at his feet. Would I do the same? Or am I Judas, sitting there wishing I could be like her, but knowing I cannot due to my own selfishness?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lent 4C Luke 15 The Jealous Older Brother and the Loving Father

I don't think this parable should be called the Prodigal Son. I would like to rename it, "the Jealous Older Brother." I remember the first time a teacher pointed this out to me...that the message might not just be the father who forgives and the son who returns. There is the older brother who sits home and gets angry when the spoiled brat returns. The parable never says the older brother changes his mind. Perhaps the message to most of us sitting in the pew that we are the older brothers. Are we envious because God is generous? Yes. What about all the years I gave to God while "They" were out sinning? Don't they count for something? No. Not really. Its about God's love and forgiveness...not about our righteousness.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lent 3 C Luke 13:1-9 Did they deserve it?

This passage concerns Jesus discussing the idea of "Did those bad people deserve what they got?"  Apparently the people are asking Jesus' opinion of a horrible act of violence by Pilate (how about that for foreshadowing) against Galilieans who worshipped at Jerusalem, and the fact a tower collapsed near the pool of Siloam. They seem to be thinking perhaps the collapse of the tower was retribution for the massacre. But no one in particular caused the collapse. We call that a natural disaster. But these people had no frame of reference for natural. It was only God or nothing.

I fear we are often guilty of that same reasoning. Sadly some religious leaders have jumped on this and publically proclaimed that God was judging (fill in the blank). Today it is Haiti and Chile. Tomorrow there will be more disasters because that is the way the earth works. Plates shift, tornadoes rage, hurricanes flood, and blizzards freeze.

Jesus' message here needs to be our message. "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."

We are all sinners. We all deserve death. Yet Jesus offers us forgiveness if we repent. All of us are in the same boat. We will all drown without the Lifesaver.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Everyone who thirsts Lent 3 C Isaiah 55:1-13

"Eat what is good" Now that is a good quote for Lent!!! Have you ever seen the movie, Chocolat, in which a woman opens a candy shoppe in a Catholic village DURING Lent?

Ok, I will confess I gave up sugar and wheat for Lent. So far so good...only one lapse into Mardi Gras (Pink Swirls, I was weak)...I'm finding it easier than the year I gave up Ebay.

Back to Isaiah, this text is about feasting on that which we did not earn--a beautiful picture of God's grace. In a bad economy, no one gets a "free lunch." We work our fingers to the bone for pennies and hope we have enough at the end of the day to feed our babies. I feel guilty that I long for wheat and sugar when there are so many starving for any food in this world.

So may the God who provides manna in the wilderness and quail from nowhere, and water from rocks provide for us. May those who have plenty, give, and those who have none, receive. Amen.

Changing face of education

Ok, so I know this doesn't fit the category of Lectionary Thoughts and Sermons. But it is a THOUGHT. I was observing today on how education has changed in the past 20 years. Yes, I am admitting my age. Some of this material is not original as I'm sure lots of people my age and older remark on it. I am closer to thirty than forty, and I graduated from college in the early nineties...That's as close to admitting age as I'm gonna get. I am a professor at a private college.

When I was in college Scantrons were High-tech
Now I give even essay tests in an online format. No paper needed, thank you. Save the trees. I am old fashioned perhaps by making my traditional students bring laptops to class rather than take the test anywhere.

When I was in college, my professors caught plagarizers because they were familiar with the subject matter. For instance, one professor for which I served as Teacher Assistant, instantly recognized a student's paper on sin as the first chapter of a book from his bibliography list--word-for-word.
Now I use Students upload papers, and it checks the paper against every published book and internet source in its exhaustive database, and against every other students' paper.

When I was in college my professors wrote on chalkboards
Now I use powerpoint presentations with a laptop and overhead projector, and my school is behind times. In the public school classrooms in buildings next to ours, they have smartboards. Large touch a large iphone...
I do teach in the classrooms in which I sat as a student. And we still have the same chalkboards--hidden under the projection screen. Occasionally I resort to the old fashion chalkboard for variety's sake....cause students get bored with powerpoints!

When I was in college (dorms), we were happy to have phone-jacks that we plugged our phones into and had phone service that was included in our tuition. Now they have removed the phone jacks cause everyone has a cellphone.

I predict that traditional college classroom education has a limited lifespan. If you can take classes via your iphone and go to class while lying on the beach....are students going to keep "going to college" geographically? Any thoughts???

And welcome to my new regional women minister friends---please leave comments--