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Thoughts for Sunday... 

There is no threat. 

The enemy is defeated. 

Easter has come, and we celebrated it. The Spirit now moves in us and we celebrate it. 

Come, rest with Jesus. 

Come, move with the Spirit. 

A brother, a father, a son

God gives gifts.

Someone once told me those three words are the essence of the Gospel. Gospel language is gift language. Undeserved, thoughtful, sacrificial. 

The best gift that I have received from God, other than my salvation, is the gift of brothers and sisters brought together by our brother Jesus. As I sit here reflecting on the death of Gene, my brother in Jesus, as I am reminded of the gift that he was in this life - to me and to so, so many others - I see that in this brother I received something for which the only appropriate response is thanksgiving. 

I received in Gene a brother in the faith, but I also received in him a father in the faith, whose wisdom was shared when I needed to hear it, who put himself out there to invest life into the lives of others, who offered himself up to give a pattern and example to others, who could show a stern face that ever so lightly covered the softest heart. This was all gift. And for that, I am thankful. 

And as I received Gene as a brother and a father, I also received in Gene a son. A man who would listen to me and whatever wisdom I might have had. Who let me buy him a slice of pie when he told me what was going on with his health and the tests he was going in for. A man whose humor stopped right at the 8th grade, but with the technical perfection of being a dad himself, he somehow amplified it just the right way to elicit the proper groan in you that would leave your mouth raised in a smile. 

I have been asked before why I do this job, that is, how do I deal with the ups and downs of caring for others? And in truth, it can be hard. It can be heartbreaking. Two weeks ago I was talking with Gene about the people who have gone before us, the characters of the drama of St. Stephanus and elsewhere who have blessed us along the way. The list is large. I think on the tears I've shed for these brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, and I think on the beauty of the gift that I should be so blessed to have had them in my life. God has thoughtfully brought me into a faith, and a faith community, where he lays out these gifts. A place where I can be a brother, and a father and a son. Where we can be brothers and sisters in Jesus. Where we can be children of a heavenly Father. Where we can be sons and daughters of a living God. That me or you experience that at all is a miracle, it's a gift. 

And that's what God is all about. 


Prep Work

Songs of the Servant - Isaiah 42:1-4, 49:1-6, 50:4-9 (reading for Sunday) and 52:13-53:12. 

42 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
    and he will bring justice to the nations.
2 He will not shout or cry out,
    or raise his voice in the streets.
3 A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
4     he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
¬†¬†¬†¬†In his teaching¬†the islands¬†will put their hope.‚ÄĚ

49 Listen to me, you islands;
    hear this, you distant nations:
Before I was born the Lord called me;
    from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.
2 He made my mouth like a sharpened sword,
    in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me into a polished arrow
    and concealed me in his quiver.
3 He said to me, “You are my servant,
¬†¬†¬†¬†Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.‚ÄĚ
4 But I said, “I have labored in vain;
    I have spent my strength for nothing at all.
Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand,
¬†¬†¬†¬†and my reward¬†is with my God.‚ÄĚ

5¬†And now the¬†Lord¬†says‚ÄĒ
    he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
to bring Jacob back to him
    and gather Israel to himself,
for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord
¬†¬†¬†¬†and my God has been my strength‚ÄĒ
6 he says:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
    to restore the tribes of Jacob
    and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
¬†¬†¬†¬†that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.‚ÄĚ

50 4 The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
    to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
    wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.
5 The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears;
    I have not been rebellious,
    I have not turned away.
6 I offered my back to those who beat me,
    my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
    from mocking and spitting.
7 Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
    I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
    and I know I will not be put to shame.
8 He who vindicates me is near.
    Who then will bring charges against me?
    Let us face each other!
Who is my accuser?
    Let him confront me!
9 It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me.
    Who will condemn me?
They will all wear out like a garment;
    the moths will eat them up.

52 13 See, my servant will act wisely;
    he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
14¬†Just as there were many who were appalled¬†at him‚ÄĒ
    his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
¬†¬†¬†¬†and his form marred beyond human likeness‚ÄĒ
15 so he will sprinkle many nations,
    and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
    and what they have not heard, they will understand.

53 Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

4 Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge[j] my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.


Wax and Spit several days later

Miracles are odd things. I've always thought this. How does healing work? In the west, we have diseases - we rely on observable data (symptoms, blood work, etc), cost/benefit analysis of treatment (and the ability to pay for it), and believe that if we apply the same or similar treatment to the same or similar disease, our chances of beating that disease are somewhere between 1% and 100%.

Which is why Jesus healing people - healing a man who is deaf and mute (Mark 7:31-37) is not just one of those odd miracles, but maybe the oddest (right there with the blind man for whom Jesus spits in the dirt, makes some mud, and puts it on his eyes). Why? Jesus does the thing with the ears and the spit and the Ephphatha! and the man is healed. It leads to this set of questions: Did Jesus have to? Could He have done something else? Why do others get healed with a touch, but this for this guy? 

Why not me? Why didn't I get healing? Why didn't _______ get healing? Why did _______ get healing? Why is God so odd? 


Just realized I could do this

Hello. This will be a space for my thoughts - following up from Sermons and Bible Studies.