Sunday, March 18, 2018

Coming Restoration

Revelation 21:1-7
1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

5And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. 7Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God an they will be my children.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Ezekiel 36:16-23
16The word of the LORD came to me; 17Mortal, when the house of Israel lived on their own soil, they defiled it with their ways and their deeds; their conduct in my sight was like the uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual period. 18So I poured out my weather upon them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, for the idols with which they had defiled it. 19I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed among the countries; in accordance with their conduct I judged them. 20But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that it was said of them “These are the people the LORD, and yet they had to go out of his land.” 21But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned amount he nations to which they came.

22Therefore, say to the house of Israel, Thus says the LORD GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord God, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

We are in exile.

We’ve seen our friends and neighbors swept away by forces that are beyond our control, and we too have be carried off.

We’ve seen the collapse of the traditional institutions of our religion. The temple, once the focus of our national culture, is in ruins, and its glory is only a memory. Our religion is a remnant, finding its life on the margins rather than the center.

The landscape we grew up in, the home we though was forever, has changed. We don’t recognize where we are anymore. We are in exile.

We’ve been here for a while.

Living in the aftermath of catastrophe, of the collapse of all our assumptions, we’re starting to put the pieces back together. Our lives are starting to make sense again. We’re processing the trauma and moving forward with some semblance of trust that tomorrow will indeed come. Our lives may still be lived in desperation, but having been in exile a little while, it’s at least a quiet desperation. Despair is set aside and hope can be entertained once again.

And into that portrait, Ezekiel speaks of a coming restoration. Ezekiel puts our exile into the ongoing story of God. Jeremiah helped us hold on to God in the midst of the collapse of our world. Isaiah helps us to see that the LORD alone is God. Ezekiel shows us that our exile is meant to bring us home to the holiness of God. 

The prophet speaks: “The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Mortal, when the house of Israel lived on their own soil, they defiled it with their ways and their deeds.” Even living in what we thought we the glory days, we were already estranged from God. Our uncleanness shone through our actions. “So I poured out my wrath upon them for the blood they had shed upon the land, and for the idols with which they had defiled it.” Violence and idolatry, trusting the power of our own hands and forgetting the power of God, we were estranged long before we were in exile. “Sin is not just failure to conform to a moral code but a falling short of the glory of God. That the object of existence is...the acknowledgment of God as he is with all its ramifications - can never be sufficiently emphasized.” The mission of the covenant community is to show all nations that the LORD is God, but we did not do that, so God sent us into exile.

“I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries; in accordance with their conduct and their deeds I judged them.” We’re in exile, have been for a while now. We worked hard to earn our place in this exile. Though the landscape has changed, the mission of the covenant community, to proclaim that the LORD is God, continues. Our exile teaches us not to trust in our own power, or in any political ideology. Those are the violence and the idolatries that earned us this exile. Our exile is not only punishment, it’s the beginning of the coming restoration. “The exilic experience itself makes restoration possible because it is during the exile that the people come to a truer understanding of [the LORD’s] power and wisdom.” By exiling us far from our comfort zones, God brings us closer to himself.

That newfound intimacy, however, is not enough. The covenant community is growing closer to God, but the rest of the nations don’t understand. “When they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that it was said of them, ‘These are the people of the LORD, and yet they had to go out of his land.’” The other nations see a people in captivity, and assume that the LORD couldn’t protect them. The same exile that leads us closer to God also leads those who still worship their own strength to believe that the LORD is weak.

We know, of course, that the LORD is mighty, powerful, sovereign over all creation. We know that there is no God but God. We know that the LORD’s steadfast love endures forever. We know that the name of the LORD is holy. Yet our exile is making God look bad among the nations to which we came. “But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel profaned among the nations to which they came.” Ezekiel puts forth a bold promise: Exile is not forever. There is a coming restoration. Once again, the LORD GOD is about to act.

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the LORD GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the LORD GOD, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes.”

These two verses are my favorite in all of scripture. They remind me that it’s not all about me. We have the tradition of God forgives us out of love in other places, but here in Ezekiel, it’s not about us “This nuance of motivation is important, because it exhibits in the Ezekiel tradition a very different Yahwistic grounding for Israel’s future, a hope rooted not in love but in holiness.” We are not the focus of our religion. The LORD is. We can have faith while the temple lies in ruins in Jerusalem, because we know the LORD is holy. We can have faith while we are in exile, because we know that the LORD can work anywhere God chooses. We can face the new landscape laid out in front of us, because the mission of the covenant community is based on God, not on our comfort. Even though we are not up to the task at hand, we can still work on it, because it’s not about our ability, but the LORD’s.

Story of Tim Fossett’s assignment on Prufrock

The coming restoration is not a return to normalcy. The old days may have been grand, but they were broken. We grew to love worship our institutions rather than the God who institutes. We serve our own interests and comforts, rather than the God who comforts the those who mourn. We proclaimed our own glory, instead of the glory of the LORD our God. If we look through more than our nostalgia, we can see the brokenness of the good old days. God isn’t interested in restoring brokenness, God’s coming restoration is to holiness, and to the goodness God intended from the beginning. The end of the age will wrap right around to the beginning. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end,” says the Lord. There is a coming restoration, and our exile in an ongoing part of restoring us to right relationship, so that we can glorify God and enjoy him forever.

The covenant community has a special role to play in all that process. It’s not because we are special, or holy, or somehow superior to the nations to which God has sent us. After all, everywhere we go we seem to profane the holy name of the LORD. Yet even though we are not up to the task, God is going to work through us anyway. “The nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the LORD GOD, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes.” Through you, through me, through the house of Israel, and through the Church of Jesus Christ, God is at work through sinners like us so that all the nations will know that the LORD is God.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

God Alone

Mark 10:17-27
17As he was meeting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22When he heard this, he as shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easy for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Isaiah 46:3-13
3Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb;
4even to your old age, I am he, even when you turn gray I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.

5To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, as though we were alike?
6Those who lavish gold from the purse, and weigh out silver in the scales - they hire a goldsmith, who makes it into a god; then they fall down and worship!
7They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it, they set it in its place, and it stands there; it cannot move from its place. If one cries out to it, it does not answer or save anyone from trouble.

8Remember this and consider, recall it to mind you transgressors,
9Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is not other; I am God, and there is no one like me,
10declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My purpose shall stand, and I will fulfill me intention,”
11calling a bird of prey from the east, the man for my purpose from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have planned, and I will do it.

12Listen to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from deliverance:
13I bring near my deliverance, it is not far off, and my salvation will not tarry; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Pluck up, Destroy, Build

Mark 13:24-27
24 “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,
25And the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Jeremiah 1:9-19
9Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth.
10See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

11The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see a branch of an almond tree,” 12Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.” 13The word of the LORD came to me a second time, saying, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a boiling pot, tilted away from the north.”

14Then the LORD said to me: Out of the north disaster shall break out on all the inhabitants of the land. 15For now I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, says the LORD; and they shall come and all of them shall set their thrones at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its surrounding walls and against all the cities of Judah. 16And I will utter my judgments against them, for all their wickedness in forsaking me; they have made offerings to other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands. 17But you, gird up your loins; stand up and tell them everything that I command you. Do not break down before them, or I will break you before them. 18And I for my part have made you today a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall, against the whole land - against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. 19They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the LORD, to deliver you.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Day of the LORD

I Thessalonians 5:1-11
1Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. 2For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3When they say “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! 4But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.

6So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; 7for those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. 8But singe we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. 11Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Zephaniah 1:7-9, 12-18
7Be silent before the LORD God! For the day of the LORD is at hand; the LORD has prepared a sacrifice, he has consecrated his guests.
8And on the day of the LORD’s sacrifice I will punish the officials and the king’s sons and all who dress themselves in foreign attire.
9On that day I will punish all who leap over the threshold, who fill their master’s house with violence and fraud.

12At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs, those who say in their hearts, “The LORD will not do good, nor will he do harm.”
13Their wealth will be plundered, and their houses laid waste. Though the build houses, they shall not inhabit them; though they plant vineyards, they shall not drink wine from them.

14The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter, the warrior cries aloud there.
15That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness,
16a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements.

17I will bring such distress upon people that they shall walk like the blind; because they have sinned against the LORD, their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung.
18Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD’s wrath; in the fire of his passion the whole earth shall be consumed; for a full and terrible end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


Mark 8:31-38
31Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Habakkuk 1:2-13
2O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save? 
3Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. 
4So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous— therefore judgement comes forth perverted. 

5Look at the nations, and see! Be astonished! Be astounded! For a work is being done in your days that you would not believe if you were told. 
6For I am rousing the Chaldeans, that fierce and impetuous nation, who march through the breadth of the earth to seize dwellings not their own. 
7Dread and fearsome are they; their justice and dignity proceed from themselves. 
8Their horses are swifter than leopards more menacing than wolves at dusk; their horses charge; Their horsemen come from far away; they fly like an eagle swift to devour.
9They all come for violence, with faces pressing forward; they gather captives like sand. 
10At kings they scoff, and of rulers they make sport. They laugh at every fortress, and heap up earth to take it. 
11Then they sweep by like the wind; they transgress and become guilty; their own might is their god! 

12Are you not from of old, O Lord my God, my Holy One? You shall not die. O Lord, you have marked them for judgement; and you, O Rock, have established them for punishment. 
13Your eyes are too pure to behold evil, and you cannot look on wrongdoing; why do you look on the treacherous, and are silent when the wicked swallow those more righteous than they? 

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

Sunday, February 11, 2018


Psalm 50
1A Psalm of Asaph
The mighty one, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.

3Our God comes and does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him.
4He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
5”Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
6The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge. Selah

7”Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God.
8Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me.
9I will not accept a bull from your house, or goats from your foals.
10For every wild animal of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.
11I know all the birds of the air, and all that moves in the field is mine.

12”If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world is mine and all that is in it is mine.
13Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?
14Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.
15Call me on the day of trouble, I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me”

16But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to recite my statues, or take my covenant on your lips?
17For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you.
18you make friends with a thief when you see one, and you keep company with adulterers.

19You give your mouth free reign for evil, and your tongue frames deceit.
20You sit and speak against your kin; you slander your own mother’s child.
21These things you done and I have been silent; you thought I was one just like yourself. But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you.

22”Mark this, then, you who forget God, or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.
23Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me; to those who go the right way I will show the salvation of God.”

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Mark 9:2-10
2Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He did no know what to say, for they were terrified.

7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus. 9As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

Sunday, February 4, 2018


Isaiah 40:21-31
21Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out like the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in;
23who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

24Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

25To whom will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
26Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.

27Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
29He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.
30Even youths will faint and grow weary, and the young will fall exhausted;
31but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Mark 1:21-28
They came to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23Just then, there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching - with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.