Saturday, November 16, 2019

Sermon: The Apocalypse is about Hope, or it is about nothing at all.


              You have been told many things about the Apocalypse, be it from Popular Evangelical Christianity, the History Channel, or Hollywood. Most of it is nonsense.
              The one thing you need to know is that the Apocalypse is about Hope, or it is about nothing at all.
The Apocalypse is the unveiling, the revealing, of what God is up to in God’s world, God’s new creation.
It is our hope that the world is about to turn.
Let us pray

The Apocalypse is about Hope, or it is about nothing at all.
              The Apocalypse is not an escape or exit from the world.
              The Christians in Thessalonica are convinced that the Day of the Lord, the return of Christ, his showing up and righting every wrong—is right around the corner. In fact, some of their community have quit their jobs in preparation for the end. With this free time they are no longer busy… other than busy being busybodies. In general, it feels like a whole community is attempting to white knuckle it until the end of the world
—just hold on long enough to escape…
…but long enough never comes.
              You know how vaping has been in the news all over the place—their was this interview with a teen who said, “I’m going to quit using Juul once I’m done with high school—I’m sure life will get a lot less stressful and complicated then.”
…The end is not necessarily the end, right?
There might still be stressors and complications in his life after high school that will still trigger cravings… so too, just holding on until the exit unlocks, wasn’t a winning strategy for these early Christians… or for us… because the Apocalypse is about hope, or it is about nothing at all.

              The Apocalypse is not about chasing after signs.
              Look at the disciples seeking signs. They want a roadmap, they want to be ready. They have this very human impulse to read world events as pointing to the end. A rather narcissistic tendency really, the age I live in just happens to be the end of it all…
That said, the time period Luke is writing about and writing in… it did have an end of the world quality to it.
-The Destruction of the Temple, the center of Religious Life, at the hands of the Romans.
-Violent revolutionaries claiming the same title as Jesus.
-Infighting between Emperors.
-Mount Vesuvius exploding killing everyone in Pompeii and covering everything within 750 miles with ash.
-Famines throughout the Empire that shaped birth patterns for a generation.
-Christianity seen as unfriendly, unsocial, and against family values.
-Formal and informal persecution—led by soldiers or led by peasanst with pitchfork—neither very nice.
-Christians dragged before people in power, forced to repent of their faith, or at least explain it, often at the edge of a sword.
              You can certainly see why the early church needed some warnings against over-reacting to world events…
              For that matter, there is always someone ready to shout, “I am he,” and “The time is near.” Remember that whole Mayan Calendar thing in 2012, or Harold Camping in 2011, the Y2K scare in 2000, the Left Behind series in the 90’s, the Late Great Planet Earth predicting the end in the 1980s, the scare of 1666 in England, 1525 in Münster… and so on. If Jesus himself has told us he doesn’t know the day nor the hour, then maybe we don’t either… because the Apocalypse is about hope, or it is about nothing at all.

              The Apocalypse is certainly not about violence and destruction.
              Jesus warns the disciples that there will be people who will gladly offer signs—they will say “I am he.” There will be people of ill-will willing to point to the topsy turvey uncomfortable bumps of history and interpret them as calls to violence from God… Who will see fear as an opportunity to sew evil seeds and reap destruction.
              In Jesus’ day, there were zealots of all sorts—the Saccari, the knifemen, first among them—convinced that the Day of the Lord could be prompted by acts of violence, by wrestling control from Rome and returning Israel to Davidic greatness… seeking a new world through violence and terror…
              And we do the same thing today
—If you carefully read the article about the neo-Nazi who incited others to attack synagogues in Wisconsin and Michigan on the internet, and then was found in his car outside the Menlo Park Mall in Edison, armed with a machete and planning on killing African American shoppers before the FBI nabbed him…
if you read the article carefully you’ll notice he and his militia regularly did “doomsday drills.” Violent people preparing for the end of the world… this can not be the meaning of Apocalypse… because the Apocalypse is about hope, or it is about nothing at all.
              Truly, there is no shortage of Armageddons. But what if all of this is unveiling the good news of Jesus Christ? Then there is hope.

              The Apocalypse is about Hope.
              It is about doing good…
              Oh Dear Thessalonians, inching your way to the exit, planning your escape… stop it. You’re just wearing yourself out, beating against a wall that will not give…
              Dear Thessalonians—do not be tired, do not grow weary—or at least not of doing good.
Keep on keeping on, because there is a world that yearns to be loved! Don’t check out, don’t tune out… engage and connect with those around you!
              So too, dear members of St. Stephen…
 I know many of you are going through some stuff right now…
be tired… it is alright to be tired
in fact, some of you really need to stop and rest a bit… but rest so that you can do good in the roles and relationships God has put you in and called you to!

              The Apocalypse is about Hope.
              It is about gaining your true self…          
              If the Good news of God is being revealed, then, the Disciples receive more than warnings—they are given tools to endure, and in so doing gain their life, their soul, their psyche, their true self.
They have one another, they, together testify and trust.
—they are able to navigate the strange times they are in by being part of this new community that helps to hold the holiness of God, unveil the face of the divine…
one that points to Jesus and trusts in his promises.
              We too… we have each other and what we’re doing right now
—gathering as a community, building up our faith, encountering Jesus in word and sacrament, and being sent out to our neighbors—that’s what worship is friends—it is so important, it is essential…
what we are doing right now helps hold the holiness of God, it unveils the face of the divine.
             
              The Apocalypse is about Hope.
              It is the revelation of what God is up to… the revelation of New Creation.
              Revelation. The unveiling of a new age, a new creation. There is so much hope in that.
It is being unveiled, revealed, in Jesus
—Jesus is the first fruits, the first taste of this new turn the world is taking.
The New Creation is a peasant girl singing a faithful song to God about the infant in her womb.
The New Creation is a Liberating-Savior among the Least, Last, and Lost.
The New Creation is executed as a criminal by the powers that be, the powers of the Old Age.
The New Creation meets Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb.
The New Creation asks us, like Mary, is the world about to turn? A+A

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Going out on a limb


          I am going to go out on a limb, and guess that none of you have ever heard a Lutheran sermon about Jesus’ time with Zacchaeus… these 10 verses from Luke’s Gospel…
          You see, every year at All Saints Sunday, we have a choice between reading the All Saints Gospel Reading, and this reading that includes Zacchaeus…
          Isn’t it strange?
He is obscured, not only by his physical stature, but by the way we do our business here at church, the way we structure what gets read when.
          This man, later sainted, possibly the 4th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church… disappears under the weight of how we do things in church…
          And I would go out on a limb, and suggest that there are plenty of ways we do things in church that obscure our status as saints of God…
-we’ve-always-done-it-this-way,
-faith is only supposed to happen inside the walls of a church building,
-only some people ought to be up on the altar or on full display in the congregation,
-being church means baptizing the practices of our surrounding culture…
all these ways we can obscure God’s goodness…
I would even expand out this point to suggest there are ways we do things in our society that obscure the Child-of-God-ness, the holiness, of whole groups of people
—ableism, sexism, racism, homophobia, biases and acts of discrimination of all sorts…
those structural sins can send people to the same place as Zacchaeus… hidden and forgotten…

          Zacchaeus, so short he cannot see, cannot see our Lord, among the crowd…
in fact, I wonder if his vast wealth,
his striving to be the top tax collector,
Zacchaeus’ climbing to the height of hierarchy in a job where knowing at all times who is above me on the grand pyramid scheme of Roman tax extortion is a necessity…
Where climbing up, up, up that tree is the only way to not be left behind…
I wonder… if that was all compensation,
compensating for his short stature… “you all physically look down on me… but I can look down on you, because I’m a tax collector”…
          Yes, his height puts him in this strange situation that leads to him hanging there, overlooking Jesus from a sycamore tree…
          And I would go out on a limb—a fairly sturdy limb, by my estimation
(after all I’m a man with a congenital heart condition, so I’ve been there)
I would suggest Zacchaeus is not the only saint of God whose physical limitations might be alienating,
might make you feel like you are less than,
might make you feel a need to compensate in ways that are uncompassionate,
and believe you are not enough.

          I would also go out on a limb and guess none of you know what Zacchaeus’ name means…
it means innocent, or clean…
Imagine a kid named innocent, a Mr. Clean…
what expectations his parents had for him…
          And how far he fell from their expectation
—being a tax collector is a dirty business for a man called clean
we know Zacchaeus was far from innocent, he’s rich in a profession where you can only be rich by being guilty.
          And I would go out on a limb and guess there are many for whom familial expectations, honoring the names we’ve been given, can weigh us down, especially when we don’t measure up, don’t fit the clothe cut for us.
          Zacchaeus, cut down to size, deflated from the protective puff of being tax collector of tax collectors… knocked from his perch by the crowd’s grumbling, making Jesus guilty by association, as they…
all of them who had ears to hear, say, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”
           Sinner.
          Sinners are to be exposed, disowned, isolated, condemned, lost…
I would go out on a limb and guess we’ve all been there on some level, right? Our sins, real and perceived, have left us cut off and cut down.
          But hear this, in the face of systematic overshadowment, physical limitations, the weight of expectations,
and Sin, Death, and the Devil…
-Christ sees us out on that limb and calls us by name.
-He joins us, transforming our life through repentance and renewed right relationships.
-He brings salvation, and makes us to belong to that company of saints…
With the saints from Abraham to Zacchaeus—A to Z, and everyone in between, including all those present in pictorial form with us today!
Through Jesus Christ we wear the spotless raiment and raise the ceaseless song—we sing our praise anew, we live our lives for you!
Thanks be to God.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Jabbok, Jebek, Jacob


          This is one of those stories…
          Just 9 verses.
-Jacob crossing a river,
-wrestling,
-leaving different than he came…
          that’s it… and that’s everything.
         
          There at the Jabbok river Jacob leaves his family, crossing back over.
           Crossing back, because he is frightened of his brother, Esau—his brother who is coming forth to meet him with an army of 400 men.
          He expects him to be angry…
 rightly, justly, angry
—angry at all Jacob has done.
          This furry red sharp shooting bowman of a brother, defeated by Jacob’s cunning, but now coming… coming for Jacob, on the other side of the river Jabbok.
          Jacob split his herd and wealth up into two pieces as a peace offering, sends them forward to his brother
…that brother he tricked.
          Not just wealth, wives… children, all on the other side, between Jacob and Esau.
          For Esau’s wrath to reach Jacob, Esau would have to go through herds and harems, women and children, and that river, the Jabbok River.
          Perhaps Jacob feels secure there, on the other side? There, alone.
          Alone until he is not… Rivers are strange things, the evening, in the dark, is a strange time. Water crossings and the night are, as Celtic Christianity will later call them, thin places.
          The night is where things appear different than they did in the daylight, both more obscure and strangely clearer, the dark is for dreams and nightmares and inspiration.
          Rivers are where you find strange creatures, trolls under the bridge, dryads looking at their image like a mirror, folk living at the edge of society…
          The river at night is where past and present, human and God, things seen and things unseen, have a way of crossing over to one another. A river is a thin, razor thin, barrier between those things!
         
          I wonder if Jacob heard the man coming, or was he ambushed? Did the reeds rustle at he came? Did he make a ripple as he crossed over, and met, and wrestled with Jacob?
          Did you know in Hebrew to wrestle is to Jibek?
          Jacob Jibeks at the Jabbok river with… someone.
          He wrestles with his brother Esau, just as he did in Rebecca’s womb
—in some way that sibling rivalry that started in their mother’s womb is being played out still as he wrestles, Jibeks…
is he wrestling with all he’d done to his brother Esau?
          He wrestles with his own nature, what it means to be Jacob…
Jacob who tricks and wrestles and always has to come out on top at the expense of someone else… everyone else…
the long term consequences of that kind of life is being alone there on the shore, being willing to sacrifice family and everything else, to just save his own skin
… to get win, even if the prize is nothing…
          But is it not said, “he is one who strives with Divine Beings and with Human Beings!”
He’s not just striving with his brother his past and his lonely present, he is also wrestling with God
—the God who formed him in the womb, whether he struggled with his brother or not… the God who followed him through his wrestling and trials and was his God not because Jacob was a trickster, but just because Jacob was
          He clung to God there—clung to the infinite in this finite person—clung to God in the form of a man, there by the Jabbok river.

          Then Jacob is asked by this mysterious man, “what is your name?”
And Jacob answers.
Jacob says, “Jacob!”
Jacob—born with one hand clamped to his brother Esau’s heel, attempting to pull him back into the womb so he could be the first-born instead.
Jacob—whose name means Supplanter or Trickster.
Jacob—who continued to degrade his brother once out of the womb.
Jacob—Grappling his brother’s birthright from him in a moment of hunger—selling him out for some stew.
Jacob—Grabbing Esau’s blessing from him by tricking his blind father Isaac.
Jacob—wrestling wives, riches, and more from his father-in-law’s by hook and by crook.
Jacob—because his anti-social actions has estranged him from his family, he is returning to his brother Esau, but fears for his life.

          Jacob… is more than an answer.
It is a confession.
Jacob is confessing.
Jacob is admitting,
“Yes, I am a Trickster.
Yes I am a Supplanter.
Yes I stole what was my brother’s and left him alone.
No I have not been my brother’s keeper.”
          And, in making that confession, in being confronted by the cowardly nature of his name, Jacob is given a new name.
Israel.
          God strives… God preserves…
          God gives him a new name. In confessing who he is, facing that reality warts and all, Jacob receives a new start, named and claimed by God.
          To be clear, this name change isn’t re-branding, Coke becoming “new-coke.” Philip Morris becoming Altria, Monsanto becoming Bayer.
          That’s not what’s happening to Jacob.
          We find him limping into the morning light—changed—renamed—limping toward his brother!
          We find him squinting a little as the light glimmers off the Jabbok. As he crosses over to the other side—crosses over to a new relationship with his brother.

          Yes, Jacob Jibekks at the Jabbok. Jacob clings to God in the form of a man.
He wrestles with his past,
his relationship with those he’s hurt,
his name and his very nature.
He steps through that thin place and comes out changed.
          Night turns to day.
          He receives a new name
—Jacob becomes Israel. The Grasper becomes the one grasped by God.
          He is changed, made to limp, to humbly go forth always aware of God’s action that night.
          He meets his brother, and they are reconciled to one another
—embracing one another,
 becoming family again and journeying alongside one another
—no longer wrestling to see who is on top.
          Yes, Jacob stepped through a thin place and was changed, that night…
that night when Jacob Jibeked at the Jabbok.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

“Return O’ Remnant”

         10 lepers in the borderlands between Samaria and Galilee, some Samaritans, some Jews. They are a multi-cultural and interfaith group—brought together, not by some high ideal or because some preacher has pumped them up about loving their neighbor—but because they are joined in their suffering and isolation.
         Perhaps these boundaries between Samaritan and Galilean were broken on account of their affliction…
think of that famed picture after 9/11 of people covered in debris, in the midst of that tragedy those common borders between them were dissolved. 
         Or… I think of going down to Florida a few years back to the Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA) meeting. The only thing anyone had in common was we’d survived our heart conditions into adulthood… and yet that was such a bond, we understood one another and our common experiences…
as I am sure is experienced by any group gathered around a common affliction.
Perhaps this group of lepers was the Esdraelon Plains chapter of the International Leprosy Association—they find deep commonality in their shared suffering.
         Or… probably, their gathering is more tragic. They indeed had accepted their cultures’ ways of discriminating:
-"stay away from those awful Samaritans” say the Jews,
-“stay away from those awful Jews” say the Samaritans…
and to them, that was all well and good,
until both of their cultures say, “Stay away from those awful lepers.” 
Theirs is likely the fellowship of outcasts, the unclean, the cursed and suffering, gathered together.

         And then Christ is there—there outcast with them, unclean and cursed so that nothing God has made may be called unclean and accursed. His passion… suffering with us.
…This is the point of the incarnation—God with us… and this is what we see today. God in our midst.
         And then, after their healing, they come to a turning point. Will they return to regular life, or reconstitute their relationship, no longer around the sameness of suffering, but instead around the one who saves?
Prayer

         Will they return to regular life, or remain together as a new people with Jesus?
         The majority return to regular life.
         This is far from an illogical act. Wouldn’t you want to see everyone you left behind when you caught leprosy? 
         Maybe it felt like an escape? The problem is fixed, so I need to go as far away from that broken part of my life as I can!
         Maybe it was more banal than that
—I went to the priest, I did my duty—I did the prescribed ritual, now I can return.
I did the bare minimum, what more do you want from me?
         But, by leaving behind the one who saved them, and leaving behind the identity and fellowship of their need, they are electing to return to normalcy, instead of reconciling their soul to their previous affliction. 
They’re not dealing with the aftereffects of their suffering. They’re going back instead of forward,
back to their old life instead of forward into a new one that includes their past.
         They are choosing revival, instead of death and resurrection.

         But then there is the remnant that return to Jesus… the one, this Samaritan.
         I imagine he returns because he’s astonished at what God has done for him. “The Jewish Messiah made me, a Samaritan, clean! Healed me.” This is a shocking thing, completely unexpected…
God came at him sideways!
It’s like catching something in the periphery of your vision instead of straight on, you’re going to take notice. Think of haunted houses, the majority of the scare-factor is being surprised.
         So too, this man is caught off-guard by God’s gracious act through this unexpected vessel, this man of a different race and religion who heals him!
Yes, sometimes God comes at us sideways.
         And to that, he gets caught in this wonderful cycle of joy and thankfulness
—in his case it begins with astonishment and moves to gratitude,
but it could just as easily have started on the other foot,
giving thanks can open you up to joy.

         And yet, as Jesus asks, “were not 10 made clean? But the other 9, where are they?” 10%...Only a remnant return…
this has always been the story of God’s people, many fall away, yet some remain
—this is the story of the mustard seed we read of last week
—God does things small,
-salt, not the whole meal,
-light to illuminate the thing, not the thing itself. 
         Or as we read in 2nd Kings, common water and washing, not hocus pocus and the greatest of rivers, is enough to heal Naaman
—a captured girl and some servants are the ones who get the King to act in his own best interest,
they reveal God!

         Yes, a small segment return to the place that changed them… not in a bellybutton-gazing self-victimizing way
—but in a way that transforms them into a cohort of moral geniuses, often called “wounded healers.”
-Think of the Apostle Paul, we do not know what the “thorn in his side” was, but we can trust that struggle helped him minister faithfully even in the worst of conditions in a compassionate manner.
-Think of those brave survivors of the Holocaust, Viktor Frankel and Eli Weisel, whose works and lives wrestled mightily with questions of meaning and morality.
-Think too of Mother Theresa
—some now question her saintliness and see it as somehow tarnished or diminished, based on the doubts and dark nights of the soul that were found in her private journal… but in point of fact, those struggles themselves where likely the source of the good she did in the world.
         Yes, returning to that which wounded you in order to be transformed and strengthened for service, grounded in that place so that you have an equilibrium wherever you go.
         
         Grounded, ultimately, in the ongoing life of faith, “your faith has healed you,” Jesus says after the healing has already occurred. It is more than healing, it is being with him. With the one who showed, as a sign of his resurrection, his wounded hands and side, and lets us join him, join in surprise and join in joy, this small group, this remnant, who live the Resurrected life. Who trust in him.
A+A

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Homily on the Festival of St. Francis

         Today’s gospel begins: 
         Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, “I repent”, you must forgive.’
The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ … and so on, as we get into today’s lesson

         Think what Jesus is saying here
—live faithfully,
help others live faithfully,
when you fail to do so repent,
when others sin against you and repent, forgive ‘em.
         And the disciples respond, “Jeeze, that’s too much… give us enough faith to do such a thing!”
         “Oh come now,” Jesus replies, “you all were just bragging that you bound up Satan and would follow me to the end and would do great unimaginable things… and now you’re frightened of saying you’re sorry to one another when you screw up and forgiving one another when they screw up? What kind of faithfulness is that? If I’m your master, and that’s what you all keep calling me, shouldn’t you at least do the bare minimum?”
Let us pray

         We’re called to take Jesus seriously, following him isn’t a hobby, but a whole way of life. 
-Pray persistently. 
-Be generous with your whole self.
-Love your neighbor, especially if they are different than you or in need. 
-When you screw up ask for forgiveness and give the same courtesy to others.
         I often worry that North American Christianity sells itself short… that we’d prefer razzle-dazzle and a wink to faithfulness, sleepy there-theres to Christ
—we prefer cheap grace to the generous grace bought by the life, death, and resurrection of God’s Son.
         And so it has always been. St. Francis, who we celebrate today, took seriously Jesus’ sending of the 70, bereft of bag and called to beg,
took seriously Jesus’ ministry to lepers and found himself among lepers.

         This was in marked contrast to the ostentatious and worldly Church of his day
 gilded in gold,
a safe planted and walled off church,
larger than life
and more powerful and self assured than the greatest kings and tyrants.
         Yes, Francis called the bloated church of his day out into the ordinary world, called it to a humility and smallness that was indeed faithful, a church like a mustard seed.
         And so may our church and our faith be as well!
A Mustard seed Church
A Mustard seed Faith
Jesus’ calls us to be Christians in our real life!
In the ordinariness of our life,
not simply here in this building but in all of our roles and relationships.
-Persistently pray & work for justice as a citizen or immigrant,
-be generous at your job,
-love your neighbor in the checkout line & restaurant,
-admit your mistakes as a spouse,
-forgive as a sibling.
         These need not be big, extraordinary acts…. just mustard seeds!
         Plant those seeds so that all may see Jesus!

         Show ‘em Jesus, because just as we ought to take Jesus seriously, he does take us seriously.
The audacious scenario Jesus spells out today—the master as servant, is indeed what he has done for us. (Donkey makes all the difference)
-In John’s Gospel we see him embody love by kneeling down and washing his disciple’s feet—that startling concreteness is Jesus taking us seriously!
-The Apostle Paul describes Jesus taking us seriously when he writes in Philippians,
“he did not horde his divinity, but emptied himself and became a servant, in the image of humanity, humbled himself to death, even execution on a cross.”
-In Revelation we read that Jesus is a Lion who, for us, is also a slain lamb…
         My point is Jesus takes each one of us incredibly seriously, he loves us and respects us more than we will ever know.
         And so too Francis—Jesus took him seriously.
I speculate, I wonder, if his saintliness was directly tied to the greatness of his need. Francis was, after all, a prisoner of war and a returned disenchanted veteran of the Wars of the Italian City States. If only every disillusioned veteran was met by Jesus as they tried to put everything back together again after the war… what a world it would be

         In conclusion…. Take Jesus seriously, small acts of faith are incredibly faithful, & know Jesus takes you seriously.
A+A

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

My "meme" hot take on the conversation between Trump and Zelenskiy








My initial "hot take" on the transcripts of Donald and Volodymyr

Anti-tank Missiles for Hillary’s Server & Discrediting Mueller’s Testimony the Day Before

VOLODYMYR: Ukraine’s President: We are almost. ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.

DONALD: I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike ... I guess you have one of your wealthy people... The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation… I think you are surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it's very important that you do it if that's possible.

Personal Relationship with Donald Trump for Information on a Political Opponent’s Son
VOLODYMYR: I would also like and hope to see him having your trust and your confidence and have personal relations with you so we can cooperate even more so I will personally tell you that one of my assistants spoke with Mr. Giuliani just recently and we are hoping very much that Mr. Giuliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine. I just wanted to assure you once again that you have nobody but friends around us.

DONALD: The other thing. There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great.
Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it ... It sounds horrible to me.

The Investigation will be Done by Yes Men, You’ll Get the Result You Want
Pass on the Direction You Want the Investigation to Go
VOLODYMYR: I wanted to tell you about the prosecutor First of all I understand and I'm knowledgeable about the situation. Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament; the next prosecutor general will be 100% my personmy candidate, who will be approved, by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned is this issue. The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case. On top of that, I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information that you can provide to μs, it would be very helpful for the investigation

The Prosecutor Removed from Office for Corruption is the Kind of Prosecutor I Want You to Use
ALSO
I’ll Bribe You with Economic Incentive for the Results I Want
DONALD: I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have. Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it. I'm sure you will figure it out. I heard the prosecutor was treated very badly and he was a very fair prosecutor so good luck with everything. Your economy is going to get better and better I predict.

Emoluments Clause OR The Tower of Babel is So Beautiful!
VOLODYMYR: I stayed at the Trump Tower. I will talk to them and I hope to see them again in the future. I also wanted to thank you for your invitation to visit the United States, specifically Washington DC. On the other hand, I also wanted to assure you that we will be very serious about the case and will work on the investigation. As to the economy, there is much potential for our two countries and one of the issues that is very important for Ukraine is energy independence.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Shrewd Manager Parable

Shrewd Manager Parable

         This week, as I’ve had the privilege of studying Jesus’ parable of the Shrewd Manager, I’ve begun to feel like someone watching a 3D movie without 3D glasses. 
I can see the image itself, the parable itself, but on either side of it are two rather different interpretations, two different ways of reading this parable. 
Each follow the contours of Jesus’ story, but one focuses on the human need to get right with God, and the other focuses on who Jesus is for us. 
         That these two intertwine together and are found in tension should be a surprise to no one
—the Word of God is both Letter and Spirit, Law and Promise,
both a signpost pointing to our Sin, and a love letter from God!
         Let us pray.

         Today’s parable is truly at home in Luke’s Gospel.
         Luke’s Gospel that kicks off with John the Baptist declaring that the one who baptizes with Holy Spirit and Fire is at hand, and so we are called to turn our lives around,
called to repent, called to live out our roles rightly and our relationships in a way that is concerned with the least, last, and lost,
we are called to not be possessed by our possessions.
         Luke’s Gospel, where Jesus preaches good news to the poor and gives the benediction “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God”,
where Levi and Zacchaeus follow Jesus by giving up all ill-gotten gain,
where the parables of the man who dies after building a bigger barn for all his stuff is paired with the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus…

         Yes, a parable where a manager is called to account by his master’s presence… where he is called to repent.
A parable where that repentance includes a shift in his business practices to not gain on the backs of debtors
—a parable that is surely good news for the least, last, and lost… 
a parable where by letting go of possessions the manager is no longer possessed by the sheer terror of homelessness and hunger…
Yes, such a parable fits Luke’s gospel like a glove.
This man has shifted his goal from collecting power to gaining favor
—and Jesus points out, how much more ought we, who regularly pray “thy kingdom come”… how much more ought we use our time, talents, and treasures to move toward that Kingdom. With all we have and all we are, we ought to make God our goal, recognizing our wealth as means to an end, not an end itself.
         Jesus calls us, through this parable, to a repentance that will be good news to the least, to a way of being in the world that recognizes wealth as a means to an end, a thing to be used justly. That is how this parable points out Sin.
         
         Today’s parable ALSO pushes forward the story of Jesus and his love!
         You see, the Religious Authorities of Jesus’ day accused him of squandering God’s possessions. Jesus brought the Kingdom of God to sinners & tax collectors, to those unwelcome at God’s table… or at least at their own.
         Jesus responded with parables about lost things, animals, and people. He tells them, “I associate with the least, last, and lost because God is like a woman scouring her house for a single cent, a shepherd venturing out to find a single sheep, a father embarrassing himself for his sinner son’s sake.
         You all, however, are acting like a jealous brother, pouting outside a party, refusing joy.”
         And then Jesus turns to his disciples and tells today’s parable to drive home the point. He does so by taking up his opponent’s perspective…
As strange as it might seem, I believe Jesus is playing Devil’s Advocate… he tells a counterfactual parable…

         Imagine if the Religious Authorities are right… do you know what that would mean? That would mean God rations resources and hordes heaven… It would mean God entrusted Jesus with a limited amount of divine love, and Jesus blew it… Jesus gave it away hand-over-foot, he gave away the store… 
Jesus forgave, when he should have retained.
He searched for the lost, when He should have cared for the sedentary and satiated.
He associated with the destitute, dispossessed, and disposable, when he should have stuck with the wealthy, well-off and well heeled.
For that matter, Jesus healed the sick when he could have hung out with the healthy.
         And God is so mad now! God only has so much love to go around, and is greedy to keep the coffers of the Kingdom closed…
         In fact, God has taken Jesus into his office and raked him over the coals… “You didn’t charge interest on that grace, and didn’t watch out for the bottom line!”
God wants to see the books at once!
         And so Jesus called up the unclean masses he’d given over God’s grace to, the man with a demon, the whole pile of people healed at the house of Peter’s mother-in-law,
the lepers… there sure were a lot of lepers, weren’t there?, that paralyzed fellow, the centurion and slave, the widow and her son… all of them!
         All those Jesus helped in the name of God, and he said to them, “What do you owe God? 100 pounds of praise? Make it 50?”
         And to another, “You owe thanksgiving 100 times, let’s make it 80.”
         And we all know what happened, people respond to mercy and forgiveness and healing… there is more joy in being forgiven than being excluded.
         The whole of Judea and Samaria was overjoyed by the unexpected generosity of God—this God they’d been told was cold and uncaring, this God who held tightly onto mercy and required so much for so little… 

         But ours is not such a God, ours is not mammon, not wealth, but instead the God we find in the person of Jesus!
 He is our eternal home,
his faithfulness is great,
he is true riches,
he is our own!
         Truly God’s Word exposes sin, and forgives it!

         Dear friends, our Lord is near,
repent,
in all you do do justice, especially for the least, last, and lost,
serve God, not wealth.
AND 
Dear friends, the God we see when we see Jesus is more caring that you can ever imagine or ever will be told, forgiving you your debts before you even know what you owe.
He loves you so!
A+A

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Parables of the Lost


         As we consider Jesus’ parables of the Lost, let’s do so with three different lenses: 
1. Modernization (Sheep and Coins in the world of concrete and credit cards) 
2. Practicality (what does repentance look like in concrete terms?) 
3. Who is this story for? (liberating for some and challenging for others)

1.   Modernization
         Now, all the loan sharks and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Preachers and Church-folk were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
         So Jesus told them this parable: “Which of you, having 100 pre-school students at the zoo doesn’t leave the ninety nine at the predator exhibit and go after the one student that is lost until she finds the child? When she has found the child, she lays him on her shoulders and rejoices. And when she comes home, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘rejoice with me, for I have found my student that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
         Or, what person, when turning on their computer to do a task that will take one hour, realizing that their internet doesn’t work, would not spend 10 hours trying to restore internet to their home? And when they restore the internet, they call together their friends and neighbors saying, “rejoice with me, for I internet again!” Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

2.   Practicality
         “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
As Luther wrote at the beginning of his 95 thesis: 
“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”
         Yes, repentance is the struggle of the Christian life, yet, we Christians sometimes spiritualize repentance to such an extent that it becomes a theoretical concept, a kind of head game, when in fact it is a matter of the heart and a set of concrete acts that have ongoing and freeing effects…
         You may remember back in Lent we took some time with Desmond Tutu’s Four-Fold Path of Forgiveness— Tell the story, name the hurt, grant forgiveness, and renew or release the relationship.
         There is, as you might imagine, a corollary to these four steps, four steps to repentance:
1.   Admit the wrong—note that this is the first, not the last and only, step.
2.   Witness the anguish and apologize—you may think you know the harm you’ve caused, but you need to really knowwhat you are confessing before you can rightly move on
3.   Ask for forgiveness—you give the power back to your victim, you are committing yourself to the possibility of change, asking to begin again, offering to make amends.
4.   Renew or release the relationship—The victim may choose to renew their relationship with you, or they may not, yet you may both move forward into the future.
         As with the Fourfold Path of Forgiveness there are no time limits to these steps, they ebb and flow as the relationship and circumstances of both parties dictate the pace, the victim may put an end to things at any point.

3.   Who is this story for?
         Just look at how sensationalthese parables are… isn’t there something clearly over the topabout these parables of the Lost in Luke’s Gospel—they almost feel like a tabloid headline or clickbait on the internet:
 “Local Shepherd abandons flock!!!”
“Woman loses coin, you won’t believe what she does next.”
         There is something offensive to it, welcoming, rejoicing, eating with tax collectors and sinners… If you are the 99 who are offended by Jesus hefting sinners upon his shoulders, the 9 put aside while Jesus sweeps the house so thoroughly—then the whole thing seems ridiculous… 
but if you are the lost
-if your soul exists only because Jesus persistently plugs in the router until the wi-fi works, 
-if you’re that child who stopped at the bathroom in the zoo and looked up and lost the group and can only get home if your teacher Jesus finds you,
-if you’re the coin cast away in a cold corner of a room,
-if you’re the sheep in need of your shepherd…

         Then thank God that God acts so offensively!        A+A