Time, two times and half a time

There is a lot about time in this week’s Lectionary readings. Isaiah is speaking about a time to come. Paul writes you know what time it is. And Jesus says no one knows what time it will be!  We might as well include Chicago’s Does anybody really know what time it is, just for good measure. (And no its meter isn’t half time; least wise I don’t think so.)

With all this talk about time, it’s a good time to remember there are two times in scripture: chronos, the time our watches, phones, tablets and time-cards keep,  the time by which we order our days, our lives. There is also kairos; likely best described by example: It was their time. or It was the right time.  We know the difference by the context of ‘time’ use.  

Robert Lamm’s lyrical dance, while phrased with questions of time, actually ponders human relationship subsumed by everything else; we are driven by what time it is, we’ve all got time enough to cry, we are pushed and shoved trying to beat the clock, we’ve all got time enough to die, everybody’s working, does anybody know what time it is, does anybody really care? [i] It seems Lamm explores the danger of valuing humanity by measured time rather than experience of time; of valuing humanity as commodity rather than relationship. In the vocabulary of this week’s readings, Lamm explores the danger of confusing chronos and kairos.

Sunday is the first day of Advent when we prepare to look at the time that was, and to experience the time that will be; Jesus’ birth and Jesus’ return. I wonder what Advent would be like if we prepared to explore our relationship with our incarnate Lord as it has been, and how it can be.


Ordinary rapture

Up at 6:30 or 7:00, make the coffee, put the dog out, pour the coffee, on the way to the living room to read, remember to let the dog in, settle in to my chair, read the daily papers, review the night’s emails for family, my self and both churches, preview the day’s to-do list, shower and dress, morning errands, travel to church, morning prayers, stop by the office, then off to a rehab home visit, a lunch meeting in Memphis, including an inconvenient phone call on the trip there,  back to office, more email, a task or two, set up an evening appointment, finish reading commentaries for Sunday’s lectionary, the evening meeting and home. All in all it is an ordinary day, full of ordinary events in the life of a priest.


Arland Hultgren’s commentary on this week’s reading from Matthew’s Gospel put’s an emphasis on the ordinary. [i] “… eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” are normal; that’s what people do; working in the fields and at the grist mill, that’s what people do. He notes there is no moral judgment between who is taken and not; though there clearly is divine distinction. The story about the thief in the night is Jesus prompting the disciples to be ready, all the time, in the midst of everyday normal activities. Jesus will come when you do not expect it, when you are not ready; so always be ready.

I’m generally not a fan of rapture stuff; however in writing I recalled a bumper sticker that reads In case the Rapture this car will be vacant. We can argue the theology expressed another time; however, it does express a degree of preparedness that Jesus is teaching. His teaching also reminds me of the Boy Scout Motto Be Prepared.

My day was ordinary. There is nothing that intrinsically is being prepared for the end of days. That, I think, is a matter of heart, a matter of fundamental motivation of life. I.E. Why we do what we do? I make coffee at 6 am in routine stupor. (I am not a morning person.) The discernment for tomorrow is: of what I did today, what was done in Jesus name, i.e. motivated by God’s love for me or my love for the other beloved of God? and what was motivated by anything else?


[i] Arland Hultgren, Working Preacher, workingpreacher.com, commentary on Matthew 24:36-44


Unexpected thanksgiving

Quite unexpectedly yesterday ended up being dedicated to plumbers, well almost half the day. It seems tree roots really like the water in the waste water line. Why on a day it is half raining and half sleeting I haven’t a clue; what’s new? In any case, I am thankful for plumbers, and thankful for the ability to call for and receive help in times of need. (There was a news story last night that told the story of some people whose genuine need for electricity and heat is being lost in a legal battle between land lord and the utility.)

The second influence for this blog is from a colleague’s blog announcing his family’s trip to homelands for Thanksgiving.

The third influence is our own plans for Thanksgiving, which includes starting the day serving meals at a local Thanksgiving Feast providing sit-down, to-go and delivery meals to anyone who asks. I had the privilege of serving there a couple of years ago and missed it so much we scheduled this year family gathering around it.

Matthew’s Gospel story for Sunday is Jesus teaching that the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. Moving from the specific to the general, Life is unexpected. Jesus’ teaching is to be prepared for life. And since we cannot know what life will bring, [i] we cannot be prepared for an endless list of specifics (like power, plumbing, family, others) we must then prepare by having developed and continuing to develop, resources for all eventualities. The only one I know of are the teaching of the Lord. [ii]  We may know them as light, or unity or peace, but they are all the results of an awareness of the Divine Presence.

I am thankful for the gift of being able to back and see the presence of the Divine, and to look forward to Divine presence, not in the hereafter, or even the morrow, but today, in ways yet revealed. 

[i] Matthew 24:36 ff
[ii] Isaiah 2:3 

A sermon for Christ the King

Jeremiah 23:1-6, Canticle 4 or 16, Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-43

Today we celebrate Christ the King!  It’s perhaps a bit strange to hear Luke’s Gospel version of Jesus’, the same said King, crucifixion. But, perhaps not. After all, all kings die, and lots of kings die violently. 50 years ago Friday our “king” was brutally taken when John F Kennedy was assassinated. If you are my age and older, I expect you know exactly where you were when you heard about JFK’s death. I was getting on the school bus, one of my classmates told me President Kennedy was killed. I  called him a liar. Fifty years ago our president our king, was assassinated, since then many things have changed, but much is still the same.

Two Thousand years ago the King of kings the Lord of lords was crucified,  and everything changed. But I don’t really think we get it.  We don’t get it because we have never lived in an absolute monarchy, where one person was absolute control over everything, absolute control over you! Oh yes, in tragic moments, like the violent death of a political leader, we form an impulsive emotional bond, but we never envision ourselves as bound to any leader; after-all there is always the next election cycle. Because of this we miss out on how viscerally different Jesus’ language of the Kingdom of God is. In truth, because of our bias to read scriptures piously we miss a lot of what Jesus does that is different from expectations. Not counting his twelve year old stunt at the Temple, when he stays behind to chat with religious leaders, during his three year romp through Judah Jesus is always doing the unexpected, like stopping to help whoever needs help; in at least one instance he is one his way to heal one person and stops to heal another. And all the healing, all the demons he casts outall the arguments are about revealing, to those who will see and hear, the Kingdom of God. And he is not talking about a Kingdom in some  secure unknown far out location, nope, God’s Kingdom is right here right now.

To be honest, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up to bad for not getting that God’s Kingdom is not like: Rome, Greece, Persia, Assyria, Egypt, or any other Kingdom the Jews know about.  Almost no one then did. God’s Kingdom is not about food to feed the urban masses, not about safe trade routes, not about armies necessary to secure all that, not about power. That’s what everyone expects; listen to the taunts while he is dying on the cross. No, God’s Kingdom is all about all that stuff in the prayer Jesus taught his disciples: it’s on earth, not in some celestial haven, it’s about daily bread, about daily life, it’s about forgiving and being forgiven it’s about God’s glory, which from the Hebrew root that means weight, and from the Greek root that mean show, both imply presence, so it’s about God’s presence, it’s about following God, not the latest imposter.

Perhaps the clearest revelation, of this difference, is the stark contrast between the two criminals crucified on either side of Jesus. The first, cries out to Jesus to save himself, so you can save me!! His hope is exactly what everyone expects a messiah, a savior, a long awaited hero, to do: vanquish the enemy, and save us, well actually put us in the positions of power, wealth and influence. The other criminal admits his guilt, says that Jesus is innocent, and asks Jesus to remember him, when Jesus comes into his kingdom. Jesus tells him: …today you will be with me in paradise. It’s the only place in the Gospel ‘paradise’ is used. A little etymology, word study,  reveals its root is from the Hebrew meaning  orchard, which put me back to the preceding phrase, … today you will be with me… The promise is the criminal will be with Jesus, today!

If we work backwards from here through today’s story from Luke’s Gospel: We read of the soldiers mocking Jesus; they nail a sign above his head King of the Jews; it turns out to be true. The Jewish leaders mock Jesus they taunt him to save himself, and then to save others; after three days, it turns out to be a transforming truth.  And just before this Jesus is doing what Jesus always does, interceding with God for others, no matter their action, even when they are crucifying him, no matter their ignorance.

Knitting all this together we glean God’s Kingdom is not about splendor, it’s about being with Jesus, being with God; it is not the weight of gold, it’s the weight of divine presence; it is not about power, it’s about other’s lives; it is not even about proclaiming what will be, it’s about being a sign of what is.
In just a minute we will celebrate Little Ray’s baptism. As we do so, let’s remember this story, not forgetting Jesus dying, while placing the priority on Jesus continuing to reveal God’s weight, God’s presence, as together we: teach, break bread, share prayers resist evil, by not doing what we shouldn’t  and by doing what we should; as together we: speak and be the Good News, seek and serve Christ in others even as they make a mess of their lives and ours; and as we respect the dignity of everyone, including ourselves.

Fifty years ago Friday JFK was assassinated; to be honest I had forgotten the date, but when reminded of it, I knew exactly where I was and my response. Two thousand years ago, Jesus was crucified; I never forget the date, and I always know where I am, where you are, in the presence of God. It’s a story worth knowing. It’s a story worth living. It’s a story worth sharing.

Scott Hoezee  cep.calvinseminary.edu, http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php
This Week at the Center for Excellence in Preaching
Next Sunday is November 24, 2013 (Ordinary Time)
This Week‘s Article: The Lectionary Gospel Text is: Luke 23:33-43

Walter Harrison Jr, New Interpreters Study Bible, Abingdon Press, 2003

Look to speak

This afternoon at the rehearsal for tomorrow’s baptism I was surprised when two families members are deaf. More than twenty years ago, before seminary, our neighbor’s two sons were deaf, so I had some experience. What little sign language I had picked up was gone. But I did remember to always look directly toward them.

I am used to making eye contact when preaching, teaching, leading a discussion, making a presentation. But this is both different and not. It is different in that I am making eye contact with someone for them; else where I make eye contact at least in part for me.

And here we come across a key element of Baptism. We gather for the person being baptized. Not for the Church. Not for ourselves. Actually it’s a key element of all Christ based relationships, for all Jesus actions are for God, or are for us, all humanity, all creation, never for himself. (Even his drawing aside to pray and recharge is eventually for God and us.) What would the world look like if everything we did was for the other person?

More than one percent

Sometime ago my thinking about this Sunday’s lectionary centered on Christ the King and how we have no idea what that means. I do no think we can, because we have no idea what King means. O yes, we have an intellectual understanding, some may even have a sophisticated understanding of the varieties of monarchy, kingship. But none of us, citizens of the US, have any real life experience of living under absolute monarchy, all sovereigns in one person. We have always lived under a democratically elected republic sovereign. We have no frame of reference about the power dynamics.

Well may be we do.  Mariam Kamell uses the phrase one percent in her commentary. (1)  even with the multi billion dollar fines some companies have agreed to as a results of decisions that lead to the 2008 economic collapse not a single corporate officer has faced charges, and less than a handful of employees have, or likely will. The one percent are individuals who because of their great wealth and indulgence can and do act with impunity.

I do not believe the one percent are by definition evil. However we are all aware of the power they have. Kamell wonders when Christians will realize we are the one percent, that we have power that exceeds anything Wall Street, or any billionaire can wield. As heirs of Jesus ministry we have the power of God to led people out of any darkness that captures them and show them the light of life eternal that exceeds anything we can imagine, even the extraordinary images of Revelation. I wonder, as does Kamell what the world, what our home towns could look like, if we dared to act with the power of our resurrected King? As did the power of Rome, the power of one percent fades in the presence of the first born of all creation.

Mariam Kimell, Working Preacher, Commentary on Colossians 1:11-20, http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1849