Archive for November, 2015

John 11:30-37

November 4, 2015

Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” John 11:30-37

The whole Star Wars phenomenon sort of passed me by. I saw the very first movie way back when and I didn’t really get it. I wasn’t paying close enough attention. The special events were cool but I was then and will ever be more of a Star Trek guy. Not the movies but the TV show that was on every day at 4:00 PM when we got home from school.

The super hero thing doesn’t work for me either. I’ll take a spy thriller over a stunt man in his underwear any day. But obviously that leaves me the odd man out because it seems that science fiction and super heroes are all the rage these days.

Which makes it tough for us to see Jesus as a man. Super hero? Of course. Miracle worker, magic healer, water walker – we expect all of that from Jesus the Super Hero, the Cloaked Crusader, the Mighty Messiah!

So we blow off the tears that fall down Jesus’ face as he comes into the presence of two grieving sisters who have just lost their brother. Not just the brother they love but also very likely their only visible means of support. Jesus feels for the girls but he also feels for himself at his own loss.

We blow those tears off because, in the back of our minds, polluted with Jesus the Super Hero, we think “but surely since Jesus knows the future he already knows that he is going to raise Lazarus from the dead now and every one else at the resurrection so why cry in the first place?”

But Jesus isn’t our Super Hero. He is our Savior and that is a very different thing. He is a man, a person, with stinky feet and tear ducts. He has feelings just as we have feelings. If you have ever lost a friend, a sibling, a loved one, trust that Jesus himself felt the same web of pain and grief and shock and anger and loss and confusion…and hope.

I can’t follow a Super Hero. He doesn’t need my help. But I can follow a Savior who cries at the death of a friend, who experiences that sense of loss that is there despite the hope of the life to come. I can’t raise the dead but I can cry with those left behind and that is all that Jesus calls us to do.

Let us pray: Tears of grief and sadness. Tears of joy and relief. Sometimes Lord, our tears are the best prayers we can offer. Our bodies shake with prayer. You know that feeling for you had that feeling. Draw our tears from us, that in their baptism we might be one with you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


John 2:13-22

November 3, 2015

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. John 2:13-22

A friend sent me a text early yesterday morning, troubled at the idea that Jesus could or would express anger. That got me thinking.

Clearly, in this passage, Jesus is angry. You could call it “zeal” or just being royally raging, Jesus is clearly angry. So the quick answer is “yes, Jesus not only could but also would act out of anger.”

But that isn’t the real question. The real question is – Why ought it trouble us to imagine an angry Jesus? Do we have some sort of ethereal “guru floating six inches off the ground” idea of Jesus that would seem to be above such an unseemly human emotion? Or do we have a problem reconciling our own anger and the impacts, often negative, it brings to our lives and to those around us?

I’m no counselor or therapist. I’m no expert on feelings and emotions. Yet it seems to me that there is a godly purpose to all of our feelings and emotions. They all have something to teach us. Most importantly, our feelings are first rooted in our belief system. We believe something…which leads us to act in certain ways…which results in feelings about our actions. What we believe – about life, about the world, about God – always precedes our feelings, not the other way around.

Jesus believed the temple was truly to be a house of prayer for all people. A place of healing, of centeredness, of connectedness with God and others. A place to help all of the other places in our lives make sense. That was the original idea and it never changed – even though it was co-opted by national pride, priestly greed, Roman dominance, and pagan idolatry. That it had turned into a tourist attraction, an economic engine, an abuser of the poor, absolutely pissed Jesus off! And it should have!

Even more, it should make us just as angry if we see the Church backsliding into that same old worldly value system, leaving the poor behind.

Yes, Jesus’ anger is a righteous anger. Far more righteous than the anger I feel if I don’t get my selfish way, or find my insecure feelings getting hurt, or getting afraid that I will be left out, or rejected, or when people don’t do what I think they ought to do when I think they ought to do it because…well because I say so, that’s why.

Yes, Jesus’ anger is far more righteous than that.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, anger is such a powerful emotion in our lives. It triggers memories, often painful, of bigger people using anger against us. It tickles the rage beneath the veneer of our public selves. Thus we are surprised at your anger, until we realize that behind your anger burns a raging love willing to give yourself completely to and for us. May your righteous anger burn within us, burning away all that would drive us away from you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Devotions Are Back

November 2, 2015

Greetings to new and old friends,

For the past few months I have been wrestling with my own sense of spiritual centeredness. It seems that life keeps bringing new surprises around every corner and some of them startle me. Turning 55 in October hit me like a ton of bricks. So that got me to praying about God’s will for my life, particularly around God’s will for showing up each day to write devotions.

I actually got so far as to open a new document on September 27th to start writing again. That, literally, is as far as I got. I typed one line: Week of September 27 – October 2, 2015. After that, nothing.

But then last week happened. A week bookended with two Saturday funerals. The first, a father who left behind three young adult children and then, this past weekend, a woman who left behind her 20 year old son. Neither were members of Faith Lutheran Church but, when I am invited into such situations, the mission and members of Faith Lutheran go with me. We remembered both names in our All Saints list this past Sunday.

All week, on top of everything else, I kept thinking “there is something missing.” What was missing was my willingness to show up at a keyboard each day. Seeking the Spirit and listening to the Word and then sharing whatever came out of that with others. But I wasn’t willing. I wasn’t even really willing to be willing.

At the funeral this past Sunday a woman approached me. She told me she missed reading the daily devotions I used to write. I do hear that from time to time but her particular timing really struck me. Yesterday morning before church I told a friend that I was thinking about writing again. He said that would be a great idea.

Then I got home from church, checked my email, and received a notice that my domain names “” and “” are up for renewal. Last night I told that story at our 6TEN recovery service – the theme was the 11th Step – “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understand God, praying only for knowledge of his will and the power to carry it out.” I told those gathered that it looks like it is time to start writing devotions again.

Then early this morning I got a text from a friend with a question about a troubling Bible passage. Later this morning I got another text from another friend asking if I was still writing devotions.

OK God. I get the message. For better or worse, I’m willing to be willing. I’m willing to ask for God’s help. To adjust my daily routines. To re-enter that discipline. To trust that God provides and that helping others with their daily devotions even as I help myself will be a good thing. The daily devotions will begin again tomorrow morning.

If you think this is a good thing, then I need your help. Send me ideas – questions you have about faith/life, Bible passages that defy your understanding, suggestions for weekly themes.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, take the wheel lest I ride right into the ditch. For so many years, you richly provided spiritual food to be shared and re-shared. May your Spirit continue to lead us into new understandings, new insights, and new life giving behaviors as we pass on the blessings of your love in our daily lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.