Finding the Lessons

I try to post well in advance of the upcoming Sunday.

You will want to scroll down to find the bible study for the lessons closest to the upcoming Sunday.

The blog will be labeled with proper, liturgical date, and calendar date.

You also can simply search below by entering the liturgical date, scripture, or proper. This will pull up all previous posts.


Search This Blog by Proper and Year (ie: Proper 8B or Christmas C or Advent 1A)

Monday, September 26, 2016

Proper 27C / Ordinary 32C / Pentecost +25 November 6, 2016

Quotes That Make Me Think

"However I feel about Jesus? reply to the Sadducees concerning the poor woman with seven consecutive husbands, I am glad that Jesus cited Exodus to demonstrate to his opponents why he believed that God 'is God not of the dead, but of the living, for they are all alive to him.' This is certainly my experience."

"Monastic Mentors," Roberta C. Bondi, The Christian Century, 2004.

"'He makes us no promises about death,' Joseph said. 'He makes us promises about life. I do not know what he promises to the dead if he promises them anything'."

"God of the Living," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.

"God is the certain detail which hope has. The rest one might add is speculation or the brushstroke of imagination."

"First Thoughts on Year C Gospel Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 25, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from

Work in our times the wonders of your grace, so that the whole world may see that those cast down are being raised up, and what has grown old is being fashioned anew, and all creation is moving forward toward fulfillment through the One who is the beginning and end of all, the Christ who was, who is and who is to come. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Luke 20:27-28

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

For those of you who preached and celebrated the Feast of All Saints' and are moving on with Luke I have a few thoughts.

We cannot look at this story and not see the contrast between Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God and the religious institutions understanding of it. The religious institution of the day sees the reign of God in political terms. Jesus is speaking in a wholly different manner.

You must read Luke Timothy Johnson’s perspective on this. It is too long to quote but he clearly puts forth the religious argument that the kingdom and politics are connected. I will give you only this quote from the end of his insightful paragraph: “Finally, we see the symbolic expression of such a closed-horizon religion: the professional religionists who find their reward in earthly recognition in public acclaim and prestige, but who cannot be content with that, and oppress others even as they parade a public piety.” (LTJ, Luke, 318) Ouch! These are strong words and powerful ones for those of us who sit in the seats of power in our congregations and in diocesan offices.

Jesus instead he argues is “expressing the deepest convictions of the Christian community concerning its understanding of the kingdom of God. God owns ‘all things’ and ‘all things’ must be given back to God, but this allegiance is not spelled out in terms of specific political commitment, rather it transcends every political expression. No king, not even a Jewish king, not even David’s son, can receive the devotion of ‘all the heart and soul and strength and mind’ but only God.” (LTJ, Luke, 318)

The point Jesus is making when he makes the reply is precisely this: our God is a God of the living. We cannot attempt to pin God down through the mechanisms of this world. The world that is being reshaped as the reign of God is a living world entirely new, completely redeemed, transformed, and restored from the life we experience today. Yes, we do experience the first fruits of God’s reign but at the same time we cannot believe for a second that God does not have the power to restore all things to life. We see only dimly then what God sees and offers us in his son Jesus Christ clearly.
You and I get so caught up in the world and our cultural contexts that we at times foolishly believe we perceive as God perceives. Behold though, all things are being made new. It is the living, the Holy Spirit, and the Christ of God that we are to share. 

Can we in the days, months and years to come share the living God more than we protect the church politic? Can we set aside the Constantinian notions of Christendom, which are as carefully guarded as those of Jesus' day sought to protect their own religion? Can we become missionaries once again? Can we dare to share the living Christ with all those who we meet? 

We are given the opportunity to lift our heads from the political infighting of our daily religious life to see that the living Jesus has left the church building and is calling us back out into the world in order to participate with the reign of God unleashed as a living spirit in the world. Can we reclaim the Pentecost moment not as the birth of the Church but rather as the beginning to a new missionary spirit, which is at work in the world around us?
I leave you with these words from Luke Timothy Johnson:

“Finally, this kingdom is symbolized by the widow, who though left all alone in human terms, is not only herself alive but capable of giving life by sharing ‘all her living’ with others.”

Some Thoughts on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17

Resources for Sunday's Epistle

Recently a friend told me that they are not worried about the end of the world because the bible says it won't happen until Damascus falls. (Isaiah 17)  A week later a woman told me her son-in-law believed we were in the midst of the end of the I told her that the bible says that Damascus must fall before that happens.  She was comforted and it enabled us to talk more about what was really troubling her.  I tell you this story only because concern over the end times is not something new by any stretch, and perhaps is only more prominent because of the many start up churches and internet sights willing to talk about it, the successful series of books entitled "Left Behind", and our cultures fascination with post-apocalyptic movies!

One of the key theological issues Paul is dealing with is in the idea that the end is here.  He instead begins:  As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here."

Paul is aware that there are people spreading such news and with it panic.  He offers to them examples of signs that must occur but have not yet occurred.  Paul is clear that the "lawless" one is not yet among us and there fore that we should not be concerned with such things but rather redouble our efforts in other areas.

Paul reminds the people of the Ephesian church that God has already chosen them, that God is even now blessing them and revealing himself to them.  That God calls and invites participation in the good news so that they might in the end participate in the heavenly kingdom.  Their work is to stand firm in their faith and their traditions. They are to remember, concerning these things especially, what Paul and others have taught.  They are to be about the work of spreading the gospel.  

They are to be comforted and strengthened in their work by the very words of God which offer hope for them - even in an age of anxiety.

This passage works well with the Gospel of Luke passage in that both are about living in response to God's good news.  People who follow Christ are to be concerned with life and the living of it as examples of Christ's love. Their actions are to glorify God.  They are not to idle away the days and years concerned about events that they cannot possible know the hour or day upon which the Lord will return.  This is in simple fact not the business of the church; the mission of the church is reconciliation in our time through a ministry which always and everywhere reveals God's mercy, love, and forgiveness.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

All Saints C November 1, 2016

Many Congregations Will Transfer All Saints to Sunday this Week; So here is your bonus Hitchhiking for All Saints

A Good Passage to Begin With:
Ecclesiasticus 44:1-10,13-14

44Let us now sing the praises of famous men,
our ancestors in their generations.
2 The Lord apportioned to them* great glory,
his majesty from the beginning.
3 There were those who ruled in their kingdoms,
and made a name for themselves by their valour;
those who gave counsel because they were intelligent;
those who spoke in prophetic oracles;
4 those who led the people by their counsels
and by their knowledge of the people’s lore;
they were wise in their words of instruction;
5 those who composed musical tunes,
or put verses in writing;
6 rich men endowed with resources,
living peacefully in their homes—
7 all these were honoured in their generations,
and were the pride of their times.
8 Some of them have left behind a name,
so that others declare their praise.
9 But of others there is no memory;
they have perished as though they had never existed;
they have become as though they had never been born,
they and their children after them.
10 But these also were godly men,
whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten;
13 Their offspring will continue for ever,
and their glory will never be blotted out.
14 Their bodies are buried in peace,
but their name lives on generation after generation.
Quotes That Make Me Think

"Saints are "holy ones" (Greek: hagioi), the 'blessed of God' (Greek:makarioi: Luke 6:20-22). But who are they really?"

Commentary, Luke 6:20-31, David Tiede, Preaching This Week,, 2010.

"This is a great text to preach as a high calling to the character of Christian community. Preaching it as pre-conditions for being resurrected - that would be a mistake. Preaching it as a calling to live as those who have been raised from the dead - that would be a blessing."

Holy Textures, Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, Luke 6:20-31, David Ewart, 2010.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from

As one poor in spirit and gentle of heart, your Son, O God, came to live among us, that we might hear the charter of your kingdom and see those words made flesh in the mercy and peace  with which he faced insult and persecution.  As we celebrate the witness of all the saints whose lies were shaped by the Beatitudes form us according to Christ's teaching and their example, that, having shared in the communion of the saints on earth, we might take our place among them in the joy of your kingdom. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Luke 7:11-17

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

I don't normally do this, but this week I want to do a bit of comparison between the synoptic Beatitudes in Matthew and Luke. Let me begin with a bit about Matthew's version:

As we look at Jesus’ ministry, it is important to see that there is a framework at work in Matthew. One that is out of sync with our current reading cycle of Luke, so be aware of shifting gears as you take on the All Saints' Day lessons. In these first chapters of the Gospel of Matthew we see that the individuals who come in contact with Jesus do not have to do anything, Jesus is not teaching about discipleship, he is not charging them to reform the religion of the time, and he is simply giving of himself. He is intentionally offering himself to those around him. The people in the first chapters of Matthew and in the Sermon on the Mount receive Jesus; this is the primary action taking place between those following and the Messiah himself.

Jesus is giving of himself to others.

The Sermon On the Mount begins in Chapter 4.25 and the introduction runs through 5.1. We are given the scenery, which is the mountain beyond the Jordan (previous verse). This continues to develop an Exodus typology which is the foundation of Matthew’s interpretive themes in these early chapters. It follows clearly when one thinks of the passages leading up to this moment: the flight from Egypt, baptism and now the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew’s Gospel the first five chapters parallel the Exodus story. So, Jesus now arrives at the mountain where the law was given.

The structure of the following verses are beautiful and I offer them here so you can see how they play themselves out in a literary fashion (5.3-5.10).

5.3 Inclusive Voice: Theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
5.10 Inclusive Voice: Theirs is the kingdom of heaven
5.4 Divine Passive Voice: They shall be comforted
5.9 Divine Passive Voice: They shall be called sons of God
5.5 Future Active Voice with Object: They shall inherit the earth
5.8 Future Middle Voice with Object: They shall see God
5.6 Divine Passive Voice: They shall be satisfied
5.7 Divine Passive Voice: They shall have mercy
Matthew uses these formulas and structures throughout the Gospel.

Scholars tell us that the classical Greek translation illustrates the pains that Matthew took as he rewrote Luke’s and Q’s Beatitudes to create the parallels we see. He also writes so carefully that when he is finished, there are exactly 36 words in each section of the Beatitudes (5.3-5.6 and 5.7-510). This combined with the parallels highlight the two sections that must have been meaningful to the church at Antioch (comprised of those who have fled persecution).

5.3ff describes the persecuted state of the followers of Jesus
5.7ff describes the ethical qualities of the followers of Jesus that will lead to persecution

The Beatitudes are blessings, not requirements. The teachings therefore are words of grace. In the initial teachings of Jesus’ ministry, healing comes before imperative statements, here Jesus preaches that grace comes before requirements and commandments. This is a perennial Christian teaching: one must receive first before service.

The difficulties required of followers of Jesus presuppose God’s mercy and prior saving activity.

The Beatitudes are clear that the kingdom of God brings comfort, a permanent inheritance, true satisfaction and mercy, a vision of God and divine son-ship. This may be Matthew’s most important foundation stone within the salvation story. We are given, through grace, our freedom to follow. We are like the Israelites and sons and daughters of Abraham, delivered so we may follow and work on behalf of God.

The Beatitudes also are prophetic as in the passage from Isaiah 61.1. Jesus is clearly the anointed one. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah, bringing Good News to those in need. Furthermore, the words of Jesus are the result of the prophecy and so they set him apart from all other teachers.

The beatitudes then are also words which not only promise Grace to the follower, they fulfill the prophetic words of the old message from Isaiah: Jesus was meek (11.29; 21.5), Jesus mourned (26.36-46), Jesus was righteous and fulfilled all righteousness (3.15; 27.4, 19), Jesus showed mercy (9.27; 15.22; 17.15; 20.30-1), Jesus was persecuted and reproached (26-7). The beatitudes are illustrated and brought to life in Jesus’ ministry, they are signs that he stands in a long line of prophets offering comfort to God’s people, and he is also clearly the suffering servant who epitomizes the beatitudes themselves. Origen wrote that Jesus is offering this grace he fulfills and embodies his own words and thereby becomes the model to be imitated.

The Beatitudes are words of proclamation. Are we in a place where we can articulate Jesus’ story and life as a fulfillment of God’s promises to his people?

The Beatitudes are words of mercy. Are we in a place where we can hear Jesus’ words for us? Have we allowed ourselves to be saved before we begin to work on Jesus’ behalf?

The Beatitudes are words of care for the poor. Are we in a place where we can hear Jesus’ special concern for those who are oppressed in the system of life? Are we ready to follow him into the world to deliver his people imitating the work of Moses and Jesus?

So lets turn to Luke now and see what the Gospel offers:  Luke’s version of the Beatitudes is quite different. While clearly laying out the boundaries of those who belong within the reign of God Jesus then turns to charge those who follow in the working of God’s will in their lives and in their discipleship.
Love your enemies
Do good to those who hate you
Bless those who curse you
Pray for those who abuse you
If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt

Give to everyone who begs from you if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

These are the standards of our live in Jesus Christ. Many of us pray for God’s will in our lives, here it is.

Luke Timothy Johnson says, “Ultimately, of course, Luke grounds this morality in the covenantal attitudes and actions of God. As God is kind toward all creatures, even those who are not themselves kind, even wicked, so are these disciples to be. The reward is itself the reality of being of God toward the world.” (LTJ, Luke, 112)

We blessed in so many ways. One of those ways is the unequivocal invitation to be members of God’s creation and inheritors of his reign. This is our baptismal promise. We cannot read this without Matthew’s own story of it residing deep within the ancient history of the Israelites planted firmly within our current mission context. We are also blessed because God does not simply invite us but beckons us to join him in the garden as partners in the stewardship of his reign. You and I receive the blessing of God for the purpose of blessing the world through our mission and ministry.

Some Thoughts on Ephesians 1:11-23

Resources for Sunday's Epistle

Our passage is a kind of blessing or beginning for the whole text; within it is a brief summary of Ephesians.  Many scholarly articles and texts spend a great deal of time using this blessing section as a tool for touching on the themes of the letter.  Our context though is in the midst of the celebration of All Saints and it is to that particular message that I think we should try and listen as we prepare for preaching.

The first piece of the passage is not news to those who read a great deal of Paul.  Paul is clear our inheritance (Jew or Greek) is always obtained by and through the work of God.  Moreover, that the purpose of our receiving such an inheritance is the praise and glory of God.
20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things
God's grace is abundant and always comes first and it is our response then that marks us outwardly as Christ's own, even though that claim is assured only by the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  We were "marked" and "sealed"; words that echo even today in our baptismal liturgies.

Even now, Paul reminds us, we are being redeemed.  Such a faith is what Paul speaks to in verse 15:  "I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints..."  - mark of the outward claim God has on our hearts.  Love for others is key to our ministry and our mission; it is the mark by which we are known as Christ's own forever.

Paul then urges that the church in Ephesus be filled with this Holy Spirit and that the "eyes of your heart" be enlightened so that they may see clearly what is God's hope.  This hope is nothing less than a) that all creation praises God; b) that all people are drawn to God for this purpose.  This is the richness of the witness born by the saints who believe and have lived and are living accordingly.

Paul believed that a Christian, a follower of Jesus, would live such a life that others in witnessing the living out of faith would then turn to God and receive the salvation.  He is very clear that people don't save other people, nor do they save themselves.  This is once and always God's work.  Nevertheless, the Christian who lives out the saintly life is one who lives life for God's glory so that they might join the rag tag group and be saved by God themselves. (I Cor 7.16; I Cor 10:31-33)

God is even now saving us.  Paul's invitation is to live the saintly life by acting as a people who are saved and that such action is marked by love of neighbor just as the love of God is the saving power.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Proper 26C / Ordinary 31C / Pentecost +24 October 30, 2016

Quotes That Make Me Think

"Zaccheus, they're all of them peculiar as Hell, to put it quite literally, and yet you can't help feeling that, like Zaccheus, they're all of them somehow treasured too."

"Zaccheus," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.

"What a strange mixture of passions must Zaccheus have now felt, hearing one speak, as knowing both his name and his heart!"

From Wesley's Notes. John Wesley (1703-1791).

"Maybe justice is our way of tracking each other, our way of defining each other, of keeping count, of keeping score, of following who's in and who's out, who's up and who's down. If this is so, if God's love regularly trumps God's justice ? and I believe Jesus dies precisely to show us that it is ? then we're operating with flawed categories."

"Zacchaeus and the Reformation," David Lose, Dear Working Preacher, 2010.

In our delight we welcome Jesus Christ as guest at our house and in the home of our hearts. Count us among the children of the covenant, among those sinners who were found when Jesus came to seek out and save those sheep that were lost. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Luke 7:11-17

As you probably know the story of Zacchaeus is only found in Luke’s Gospel. Zacchaeus was a chief tax-agent. He was wealthy, not unlike the wealthy man in the Lazarus parable and the wealthy young man from 18.18. So we are see that Luke has crafted a story which is linked through geography and theme.

Zacchaeus climbs up into the tree trying to see Jesus. He wants to see and know who Jesus is. Previously the blind man (18.38), who could not see, indeed recognizes and knows who Jesus is – the Son of David. The blind see the Messiah; they are healed and follow Jesus. So you and I are meant to pause here, only sentences away, and wonder if Zacchaeus, who can see but is blind to who Jesus is, will gain his sight as well. Will his faith make him well?

Jesus, who is seeking the blind and lost, stops under the sycamore tree and tells Zacchaeus that he is coming to his home. Jesus has come and wishes to “remain,” to dwell with Zacchaeus. This is his opportunity to see who Jesus is. This is the moment when Zacchaeus will have the opportunity to welcome the living word of God into his house, and the home of his heart.

The crowd grumbles. They are upset because Zacchaeus is clearly a sinner and a tax collector. Tax collectors are of course beloved by the minority for whom they work and generally despised by the majority from whom they take the tax. In those days the tax collector collected some seven layers of taxes from the day laborer. They also collected from the overall total some money for themselves upon which to live.

But Zacchaeus is not an ordinary tax collector. He has climbed up into this tree because he has already seen and known that amendment of life is essential in the reign of God. He tells Jesus that he has already been giving away half of his possessions to the poor. And if he has cheated someone he is already making restitution. He is fulfilling the law from Exodus 22.1. Zacchaeus has faith. He is being made well before he ever meets Jesus.

Salvation happens because Zacchaeus is living the life foretold in the Lazarus parable. He is a wealthy person but is making a difference in the lives of others.

This is not simply a moral tale though. It is a story of the reign of God coming and making inroads throughout the community. We are clear in the teachings over the past weeks that piety alone does not mean that individuals will: a) welcome the Lord b) change their lives c) live out through action the will of God. Many will be saved, many will glorify God and many will welcome the Gospel of Jesus, the Living Word into the home of their hearts.

We end our parable today knowing the answer to the question from 18.26: Who then can be saved? A blind beggar and a rich tax collector can be saved.

For you and I, we must ask ourselves the perennial Lukan question: Are we faithful but not acting? Jesus seeks us out hoping to find us living out our faith in the world with him through the changing of people’s lives as in the story of Zacchaeus; or proclaiming and glorifying God as in the story of the blind man, which precedes today’s pericope.

There is that wonderful story of the man who stood up just before the offertory at Christ Church and proclaimed: I am Jesus. The Dean turned to the clergy on his right and said, “What should we do?” The answer: “Look busy.”

Jesus challenges us in Luke’s Gospel to see the Living Word of God, the Son of Man, in the person of Jesus, and to not only look busy but be busy in the kingdom work to which we have been invited.

Some Thoughts on 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

Friday, September 23, 2016

Proper 25C / Ordinary 30C / Pentecost +23 October 23, 2016

Quotes That Make Me Think

"This parable is therefore preached well only to the degree that each time we try to interpret it we find ourselves, yet again, with nothing to claim but our dependence on God's mercy."

Commentary, Luke 18:9-14, David Lose, Preaching This Week,, 2010.

"Far from condemning all Pharisees, Jesus is using one as an example ofvirtue not yet transformed by the love of God."

"Who Are You Talking About, Jesus?" Blogging toward Sunday, Stan Wilson,Theolog: The Blog of The Christian Century, 2007.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from

Silence our prayer when our words praise ourselves. Turn your ears from our cry when our hearts judge our neighbor. Place always on our lips the prayer of the publican: “O God, be merciful to us who are sinners.” We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Luke 18:9-14

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

So this week’s lesson is the second parable of the set, the first one being about the woman and the unjust judge.

After comparing the religion of the day to an unjust judge, he now speaks about and to those same religious leaders who think very highly of themselves. They consider themselves to be the “righteous” ones. So, now we know Jesus is talking to…us.

Yes, we like the “righteous” ones are very eager to point out how all the others just don’t have it quite right. This in fact is one of the church’s greatest sins. We know that whoever the other is doesn’t have it right. We scorn them, we hold them in contempt, we do actually reject them. Sometimes we do this outright by saying, “our way or the highway.” Sometimes we do this by showing out the “other” is wrong in their theological ideas – after all we are all so very certain. Sometimes we reject them by pretending “they” don’t want to be apart of our group. We do this all the time.

And, quite frankly we are sure glad we aren’t like them. In fact we will even engage in some small piece of humility, then go right back to our old ways. We are all for confession and forgiveness and then we are right back at the “righteous” acting again.

So, Jesus has our number. He had our number in the story about the rich man and Lazarus. He had our number with the lepers who did not return to give thanks. Jesus has our number with these “righteous” ones. I hate that!

Jesus tells us that our spiritual discipline is to be modeled on the sinner. Hmmmmm. Whenever Jesus goes down this road I believe we all get a little nervous. He tells us that the sinner stood far away. He kept his eyes lowered. He made a sign of repentance. And, he cried out for mercy. This is our work. Over and over and over again.

I don’t know why this has come into my memory but I remembered as I studied and prayed over this passage the prayer from the movie the Hunch Back of Notre Dame by Disney. (That’s right I am about to quote Disney!) Esmeralda is in the Cathedral and here is her prayer:

God Help the Outcasts
Vocals: Esmeralda (Heidi Mollenhauer) and Chorus
Music: Alan Menken
Lyrics: Stephen Schwartz

I don't know if You can hear me
Or if You're even there
I don't know if You would listen
To a gypsy's prayer
Yes, I know I'm just an outcast
I shouldn't speak to you
Still I see Your face and wonder
Were You once an outcast too?
God help the outcasts
Hungry from birth
Show them the mercy
They don't find on earth
God help my people
We look to You still
God help the outcasts
Or nobody will

I ask for wealth
I ask for fame
I ask for glory to shine on my name
I ask for love I can possess
I ask for God and His angels to bless me


I ask for nothing
I can get by
But I know so many
Less lucky than I
Please help my people
The poor and downtrod
I thought we all were
The children of God
God help the outcasts
Children of God
This song and prayer from Esmeralda and the Parishioners shows a similar contrast. The reality is that how we pray reveals who we are. Interesting perhaps to make the observation that perhaps the writers of the song perceive the church to be this way and what does that mean as we sit in our parishes on Sunday morning. Are our prayers and lives as Chrsitians as private as we think. How many people see us day in and day, know us as Christians and wonder about our relationship with God?

I also like the words from Luke Timothy Johnson on this passage:
The parable itself is one that invites internalization by every reader because it speaks to something deep within the heart of every human. The love of God can so easily turn into an idolatrous self-love; the gift can so quickly be seized as a possession; what comes from another can so blithely be turned into self-accomplishment. Prayer can be transformed into boasting. Piety is not an unambiguous posture…The parables together do more than remind us that prayer is a theme in Luke-Acts; they show us why prayers is a theme. For Luke, prayer is faith in action. Prayer is not an optional exercise in piety, carried out to demonstrate one’s relationship with God. It is that relationship with god. The way one prays therefore reveals that relationship. (LTJ, Luke, 274)
We are challenged last week and this week to take our temperature and ask how is our relationship with God? What kind of relationship with God is revealed by our prayer? What kind of faith do I exhibit to God and to the world through my prayer?

Some Thoughts on 2 Timothy 4:6-18

Resources for Sunday's Epistle

We come to the end of our series on 2 Timothy this week. 

The author reveals that his time is limited and that they are going to have to continue their ministry without his guidance. He encourages them to fight the good fight, run the race well, keep the faith, and rest upon the promises of Christ to deliver them. 

Not unlike the previous chapters of this letter the author encourages the community to be steadfast in the faith that they have received and not to be tempted to follow others. And, always (as the author has done) to rely on God and God's grace. 

The letter, whose author is unknown, remains a very personal letter and one that deeply taps into the continuous struggle of any community to remain resolute in their faith.

The prophet Joel is believed, by most scholars, to have written after Jeremiah and following the return of the people from their Babylonian captivity. The prophet throughout the text longs for the return to a Temple oriented faith, and that the people be faithful to God and respond to God's invitation into relationship. Of course the people are not particular faithful and the book describes a particularly devastating plague, drought, and locusts. This is all reminiscent of Egypt.

God though reminds them that he will deliver them. God will pour down rain and there will be a great deal of wheat and grain and wine and oil. God will offer them deliverance from the destruction of the famine they have suffered under these past years. The prophet Joel writes:
[God] has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before. The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. 25I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other. And my people shall never again be put to shame.
Not unlike the formula of the deliverance from Egypt: God acts, you know God's mercy, you shall respond with faithfulness, the theme is repeated here. God will deliver and they will by their deliverance know that God is in their midst and God is present with them and will watch over them.

God then promises that he will pour out his spirit upon everyone - even the gentiles: 
Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit. I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.
 Joel's prophecy echoes the deliverance of Israel, it repeats themes of Godly deliverance and providence. It reminds the people that they are beloved and that God hears their cry and acts on their behalf. 

Proper 24C / Ordinary 29C / Pentecost +22 October 16, 2016

Quotes That Make Me Think

" is missing the mark if we treat the passage as a general teaching about intercessory prayer. It is primarily about the yearning for change."

"First Thoughts on Year C Gospel Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 22, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

"Who could be against justice, right? I mean, come on, if there's one thing that the law and prophets ? not to mention Jesus ? would seem to agree on, it's justice. So who could be against it? As it turns out, from time to time, I am."

"Justice," David Lose, WorkingPreacher, 2010.

"Jesus challenges us by juxtaposing God?s desire for justice (the presence of the kingdom in our midst) with the possibility that, when Jesus returns, he may find that nothing has changed."

"The Sermon We're Not Going to Preach," Alyce McKenzie, Patheos, 2010.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from

Look upon the church gathered in prayer, and grant that we, like your people Israel, may grow in the service of goodness and prevail over the evil that holds the world bound, as we await the coming of that hour when you will grant justice to you chosen ones, who cry to you day and night.We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Luke 18:1-8

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We know of course that this section of Luke is pure Lukan material. Jesus is teaching about the persistence of prayer, the consistency and perseverance of praying regularly. (Luke Timothy Johnson, Luke, 269)

So our parable is given to us as a story of an unjust judge. He is afraid of no one and everyone is afraid of him. He is not moral and he has no ties to external rules. He is a lone ranger and a maverick on the bench. He doesn't even fear the Lord.

Then we have the widow. She is one of my favorite biblical characters. She is a boxer and not afraid of the judge, and perfectly willing to go a round or two with him.

She has him so frightened that he thinks she is actually going to hit him. She is going to give the man a black eye. She is coming for him. So he rules in her favor.

We see immediately that the Jesus is saying: be persistent but know that God is going to care for you far more than the unjust judge.

Are you really wrestling with God? Are we engaging in prayer with God which is like fisticuffs? I mean we are encouraged by Jesus to have a relationship with God that is like this woman’s relationship with the judge. We must like Jacob wrestle in the desert.

The bell sounds…round one… round two… round three.

God does not give up on us. But the question remains, are we willing to go all the rounds with God?

It is easy to walk away from this parable and focus on justice. I am not saying that is not important. However, we should remember that Jesus began a number of verses ago dealing with the disciples who said they needed more faith. There is a theme within Luke that shows how difficult it is to follow Jesus to Jerusalem. It will take prayer to build up the foundations of our life so that we may make the spiritual journey ahead of us.

“Prayer is not an optional exercise in piety.” (LTJ, Luke, 276) We as Episcopalians understand the nature of prayer is the bedrock of action. Our liturgy is itself a form of prayer engaged with Jesus Christ that moves from living word, to table fellowship, to action in the world.

How we box with God, how many rounds we are willing to go, how engaged we are will often limit or expand our ability to change the world around us.

Some Thoughts on 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

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In the letter to Timothy we read the encouragement of the author to the local Christian Church to persevere in what they have learned - the Gospel of God in Christ Jesus and his cross. Reminding them that they have received this from a direct lineage of faith from the very beginning and rooted int he experience of Jesus. 

Continuing in the stories of Jesus and sharing this faith will be their work. The author invites them to not simply be followers (disciples), or community members, but to become apostles (people who are sent) sharing the faith that is in them. They are to share what they have received. 

This story is rooted in the Old Testament and that God is at work as a living word within these stories of God's love that delivers God's people. And their faithful response to God who delivered his people of out Egypt and now has delivered all people from death by the work of Jesus Christ is to share their truth with others. 

Moreover, that the conditions of our situation does not change the truth of this invitation or the teaching. It is always easier to look for other messages that coincide or parallel our earthly teachings about power and authority and how to hustle for approval and worthiness. The Gospel rejects these behaviors and though our ears may itch and we may wish to find teachers that suit will not be changed. 

Finally, a bit of ancient motherly advice: don't worry about what others are doing, do what you are called and invited to do. Don't worry about what others are teaching, teach the Gospel that is in you. Don't worry about what they have to say or their words of ease, you have chosen the better part...stick to it.

Jeremiah continues his prophecy saying that God will bring about a bounteous future. God has not stayed the hand of those who have undone the power of Israel as a civilization rooted in the authority of this world. Remember it was Israel's political and religious machinations which brought it down. Yet, God will in the days to come bring about a resurrection from the death they brought on themselves. God will bring about life from their rubble. 

While the people have suffered and have been deported this will not be the final word. Out of lostness, leastness, and death God brings about life. From the children whose teeth are set on edge to those who at sour fruit, God will bring about a bounteous feast and plenty for the children. Jeremiah prophesies:
"The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge. The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 
God promises a new covenant - a new relationship. Christians understand this prophecy to be about the promise of God to deliver all people. The temple's politics intermixed with the state, the civil war between tribes (between the northern and southern kingdoms) has undone the original covenant that was made with God. They forgot who delivered them out of Egypt and so they thought they were responsible for delivering themselves. They forgot who fed them in the wilderness and thought that it was by their own hands that they had wealth. They forgot that God brought water from the rock and thought instead that their future and the future of their kingdoms would flow from their own power.

God speaks through Jeremiah and he writes:
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
The covenant intends that people not work against one another but rather that they see one another face to face and see God face to face. Again a radical message says that God will forget all their sin.

For Christians this is the very mission of God in Christ Jesus. That God in Christ comes and is incarnate such that they meet God face to face, and can no longer look at each other without seeing the face of God looking back. That God in Christ will be the very law himself. We are to understand that the highest law shall be the writing of commandments and actions by Jesus himself. Humanity will know, both by sight and by relationship and by story/witness God. The living word shall come and be part of the community and with him he shall bring forgiveness of every iniquity.

While we may wonder why Jeremiah remains in the scripture because of his obvious entanglement with the Babylonian court, what we see is that his words prophesy a new faith. The first Christians, without a New Testament, understood their work as community and the person of Jesus Christ as revealed in the prophesy of Jeremiah.

Proper 23C / Ordinary 28C / Pentecost +21 October 9, 2016

Quotes That Make Me Think

"Amid the various ecclesial, ethical, and liturgical reforms of the sixteenth century, Martin Luther was once asked to describe the nature of true worship. His answer: the tenth leper turning back."

Commentary, Luke 17:11-19, David Lose, Preaching This Week,, 2010.

"Los pasajes bíblicos que ilustran los encuentros entre extranjeros tienen mucha potencial para informar la predicación."

Comentario del Evangelio, San Lucas 17:11-19, Gilberto Ruiz,, Luther Seminary, 2010.

"We see the faith in the one whose beliefs made a difference in the way he acted. I find it ironic that for him to return and glorify God by thanking Jesus, he had to disobey the command from Jesus to go show himself to the priest! When might our thanksgivings to Jesus mean going against what is deemed good and proper?"

Exegetical Notes by Brian P. Stoffregen at CrossMarks Christian Resources.

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To us sinners, cleansed and forgiven, give a spirit of constant praise and thanksgiving. Let faith be our salvation and service of others our gift of thanks, as we follow your Son toward the cross and new life. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Luke 17:11-19

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Last week I concluded with these words:

Christians are called to live between the reign of God and the world of today. We are called to work on God’s behalf. I pray, “Heavenly father give us faith, add to our faith…for the work God give us to do is demanding. Give us some comfort Lord that we may repent when we need amendment of life and forgive when we are bound to tightly to the sin of others.” Like the pilgrims in the dessert waiting outside the caves hoping for a word from the dessert monks, we shout, “Abba, Father, give us a Word.”

This week we receive from Jesus hope for the mission. We are given a Word for the path of demanding work that lies before us.

In the narrative we see our prophet is heading to Jerusalem and his death. We have been listening to his instruction. We have begged for added faith that we may follow. So we find ourselves in Samaria and Galilee.

The ten men follow the prescription in Numbers 5:2ff to call out and warn others away from them. However, this time they call out for help. They call out for mercy.

Not unlike the apostles following Jesus, these men are forgiven, soon to be cleansed and healed. We as followers are like the lepers. We are brought into the family of God, remade sons and daughters of Abraham.

In this moment we see the expectations of the kingdom. We are not to receive thanks but we are to act out of our thanksgiving. We are to offer thanks to God for our healing, for our deliverance. As followers of Jesus gifted with the waters of Baptism and the Holy Spirit you and I are to be thankful for our adoption as full members of Christ’s reign.

We know what it is like to be an outcast, in the words of Jesus, none more so than the foreigner in our midst. Their faith has saved them.

Perhaps when we have faith, even as a mustard seed, we are not only cleansed but supported in our work of redemption and thanksgiving.

You and I are on the one hand like the disciples hungry for faith, because like the other nine we quickly forget what we have received by the grace and mercy of Jesus and long for more. Unlike the leper, with faith like a mustard seed, we struggle to remember daily, even hourly, the gifts given and to glorify God in praise and in action.

Faith therefore is not simply as it says in Hebrews 11:1 "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," it is substantiation of things realized. When we divide faith from works and works from faith we set up both a false dichotomy of competing truths and philosophically protect the human ability to sin without accountability. Faith is the action of thanksgiving; it is the action of living life for God and for others. It is why I am a liturgical Christian where faith is enacted ritually.  It is also why I am focused on the unique proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ - sharing what I have received.  And, it is why I believe in  virtuous work that enacts the Good News as it transforms the world. We as Episcopalians are in the business of enacting Eucharist at table and in the world.

Let us always be on our knees pleading for more faith and giving thanks to God by works which change lives of people, just as Jesus changed the life of the lepers.

Some Thoughts on 2 Timothy 2:3-15

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The author invites Timothy and his Christian community to embrace the life of suffering. It is very possible that they were in the midst of persecution. The last lesson from Timothy reveals some concern about their timidity. The author says there is no timidity in the Gospel. 

In today's reading what is revealed is that part of what is entangling the community is concern over the "everyday affairs" of the community. 
No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier’s aim is to please the enlisting officer. And in the case of an athlete, no one is crowned without competing according to the rules. 
The author reminds the reader and his community that there is no way of getting out of this alive and that the ministry is a cruciform one of discomfort and suffering. The life of the lost and least is the life lived in Jesus Christ. Only in the participation with Jesus' own death do those who follow participate in the resurrection. 

This is far more than a kind of cult of martyrs. What we are reading in today's Gospel is a confirmation of the Gospel that life only comes after death. Deliverance only after suffering. The author writes:
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal... If we have died with him, we will also live with him...
The living God and the living word will not be bound by death. It isn't simply that resurrection comes after death but that the defeat of death itself has unchained the living word to be about God's work int he world. There is no life, no faith, no proclamation without our death and the living Word's presence with us.

Scholars believe that this last bit (11-13) may actually be a hymn. Singing Christ has died, we share in his death, like him we will have eternal life. Do not give up, do not deny him, his covenant is always faithful and his presence and promise unwavering...sang the early Christians. Reminding them of the centrality of Christ and his cross.

The author concludes with an invitation to remember this and to live it out. Fear nothing, not even death, don't "be ashamed" and teach this Gospel paradox. Only in this will the fears of daily living fall away and take their rightful place in the broad scheme of things. Only in understanding that deliverance is ours, death is ours, and so is life, will the powers and authorities of this world fall away and along with them their powers of binding and enslavement. Don't be persuaded that you should make the truth of the Christian faith any less than an embrace of loss and losing for the sake of life. Any teaching that you offer that eases this truth for the hearer is no teaching at all. 

We continue our reading through Jeremiah. Today's reading is clearly a part of a letter written and "sent from Jerusalem" to the leader of the exiles. He is writing to those "priests, prophets, and elders" who guide the people who have been taken away to the court of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon.

Jeremiah is here revealed as offering a very controversial prophecy. Moreover, it reveals his ties to the court of Zedekiah and his revolutionary alignment with Babylon over and against the Temple and the Temple's political power over Israel. 

Jeremiah says:
...The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 
Moreover, he says, 
...Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
We might well ask how this came to be in the scripture at all. Go and be happy in the foreign land? Multiply and pray for your captors and their welfare? This is a radical prophecy. 

Yet it is part of our deep ancestral faith. Here we find in Jeremiah not only, for Christians, the idea that Jesus is the one to bring the new covenant. We also see a vision of a faith that is completely disbursed from the Temple mount. That the people of God, no matter where they are and no matter what the circumstance is, they are not released from responding to their God. They are to pray and worship wherever they are, they are to make homes and grow their community. They are, no matter where they are, to work for the improvement and betterment of the common good of the city in which they find themselves.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Proper 22C / Ordinary 27C / Pentecost +20 October 2, 2016

Quotes That Make Me Think

"Pointing out one's failings is meant to lead to metanoeo -- perhaps most literally in this context to "re-think" the actions. metanoeo besides meaning "to repent" or "to change one's mind," which are part of the meaning here; but it also carries the sense "to perceive afterwards" or "to perceive too late". Sometimes the words or actions we thought were OK at the time, with hindsight were seen to have "missed the mark". Such insight is meant to lead to repentance and forgiveness."

Exegetical Notes by Brian Stoffregen at CrossMarks Christian Resources.

"What is our value if it is not in what we achieve?"

"First Thoughts on Year C Gospel Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 20, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

"Instead of assuming that Jesus is promising that if our faith is big enough we will be able to do miracles, let's wonder if Jesus isn't chastising us for thinking in the first place that faith / trust comes in sizes."
Holy Textures, Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, Luke 17:5-10, David Ewart, 2010.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from


You hear, O God, the prayer of those whose faith is the size of a mustard seed. Give us humility of heart, that we may work with all our strength for the growth of your kingdom, yet recognize that we are yours, “doing what we were supposed to do”. You have called us in order to reveal to all the wonders your love has accomplished.  We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Luke 17:5-10

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Last week we had the story of Lazarus and the rich man.  How we live matters to God and it matters to Jesus. In this reading we learn we are to do what has been given to us to do. Let’s begin by looking closely at the text as our conversation with Jesus and his disciples continues to develop in this 17th chapter of Luke.

We cannot guess why the “apostles” ask Jesus to add to their faith. He has been teaching some very tough messages about stumbling blocks on the journey of faith and he’s been very direct with the religious leaders of the day. I can only imagine, especially after the message of accountability, that I, in their shoes, would ask the same thing. I might say, “Jesus what you say is hard. It is actually REALLY difficult. Give me faith to do these things … add to my faith.”

Jesus then gives the apostles and us the image of “faith as a mustard seed” with which to face the challenges of discipleship. If we had faith “like” a mustard seed the mulberry bush would obey us. Here we believe that it is about the size of the seed and not about the nature of the mustard seed.

The mustard plant is an aggressive weed which will take over and push out other crops if not carefully removed or contained within a garden. If you are not careful that tiny seed will grow and generate a whole garden of mustard. The rural people of Jesus’ time would have understood this immediately.

What Jesus means is if we had just a little faith it would spread and all of creation would obey us. In fact we might lean into the parabolic teaching a little here to believe that Jesus is saying we could, with just a little faith, be at work restoring one another and all of creation into the reign of God. Our work is to proclaim the Gospel of Salvation and the unique person of Jesus Christ and emulate his actions in the world, transforming and changing the world.

Like the “slave” or “servant” (both of which are unsuitable images in our modern context) we are bound or tethered to the work of God. As creatures of God we have been created to reflect the glory of God. Jesus’ death and resurrection provides the grace needed to overcome the obstacles to our work with God in creation; those obstacles are sin and death. Now that we have received the good news of Christ, we are to do as God has invited us: participate in the work of the divine trinity. We are to be a community in healthy relationship with one another, transforming the world around us that it may better serve God as was intended.

I am not talking about a return to some false Constantinian model of Christendom here. But we must meet the needs of the hungry, poor, oppressed and voiceless ones with whom Christ has a special relationship. We must return to a sustainable model of creation. These are stewardship themes that should rattle our cages at the very least.

It is at this point that we must recall the verses that come before in order to have greater clarity about God’s expectations of our faith and ministry:

We are not to be involved in scandal and if so we are to repent

We are not to cause others to stumble and if so we are to change our ways

Be accountable one to another and offer or seek out forgiveness

Luke Timothy Johnson describes this overall section in this way:

“First the reader has been schooled by this point to identify with ‘the poor’ who are called into the kingdom. The reader’s natural temptation is to assume that one is ‘Lazarus’ to the enemy’s ‘rich man.’ The rich man of the story ‘stumbled’ over the demand to share possessions, and did not repent. The community of the poor can easily see itself as pure victim. But the saying on the scandal and repentance turn the ethical demand on this community as well. Even in the kingdom there is opportunity for scandal and the need for repentance and forgiveness. The demand placed by Jesus on his followers is that they are themselves responsible for both; they cannot plead innocence because they are oppressed by others. If they cause scandal, they will be punished for it. If they are sinned against, they must forgive.” (Luke, 261)
How often do we spend our time on one topic or another? We either devote a lot of time on our own needs and wants and how they are not met by others; or we spend time giving clarity to our perception of the problems outside in our culture or in the lives of others. Christians are called to live between the reign of God and the world of today. We are called to work on God’s behalf. I pray, “Heavenly father give us faith, add to our faith for the work God gives us to do is demanding. Give us some comfort Lord that we may repent when we need amendment of life and forgive when we are bound too tightly to the sin of others.” Like the pilgrims in the dessert waiting outside the caves, hoping for a word from the dessert monks, we shout, “Abba, Father, give us a Word.”

Some Thoughts on 2 Timothy 1:1-14

You may remember from seminary studies or readings or a PBS special on the Bible that more than likely the church being presented in 2 Timothy is not the church of Paul but rather one of the churches in the second generation after Paul. We have a more institutionalized church, a church that is well on its way to developing its core traditions and a church that feels directly in line with the work and mission of Paul. They are inheritors if you will of the tradition.

To this end our lesson today rehearses Paul's ministry with a typical introduction to his work. They see themselves not only in line with Paul's mission but the faith ancestry of the Jews.

Timothy is the recipient of this long lineage of faith.

What has happened recently though is that the faith of the church is waning and is in need of being rebirthed by the Holy Spirit.

Where to begin the author poses? Begin with the teachings and life of Jesus. God's incarnation is the core teaching of the faith and here we find not simply a body of faith or a doctrine but rather the spirit of life that will enliven the community. The author writes in Paul's name:
8Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, 9who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, 12and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. 13Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.
This is a great encouragement. What is needed is faith and the remembrance that just as Paul is with us so is Christ. It is none other than Christ that has called us and has appointed us to be the faithful in this age.

So too in our age, a much more institutionalized church, let us once again reclaim the mystery and remember God's presence. No matter what our circumstance God is present with us in Christ and through Christ's love. We are inheritors of the great faith and hope that was in Paul's generation and all the generations to come. We are the ones who today write the story of Timothy, in our time, in our context. What will the faith say about us and how we told and retold the story?

Some Thoughts on Lamentations 1:1-6

A word about lamentations. Lamentations is believed to be written while the Israelites have been carried off to Babylon. Scholars tell us that the songs were written back at home during the ensuing crisis. The songs are songs of morning for the loss of Jerusalem. There are five major sections to the text. These are laments, tears and songs and sadness.

The text compares Jerusalem to a widow who now is alone. Once a princess, a great woman, bejeweled, now she is a servant, slave, and vassal. 

This widow weeps with no one to comfort her. We are reminded that the city (the leaders and people) sought to play a power game with the nations around them only to be destroyed by them in the end. So now our widow weeps - for they treated her terribly. 

The lament proclaims:
Her foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper, because the Lord has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe. 6From daughter Zion has departed all her majesty. Her princes have become like stags that find no pasture; they fled without strength before the pursuer.
So it is that: 
The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to the festivals; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter. 
To read the lament of Jerusalem is to enter into the deep pain of brothers and sisters. To hear another's lament is to understand and to feel with them. The words of lamentations could be said in any country our Palestine...Iraq. The words are the words of countless widows, orphans, widowers, mothers and fathers left without sons and daughters.  The lament of today is a lament of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. What is our response? To wail and weep and lament with them at the loss.  Being present with those who are suffering is to love and care.

One of the greatest gifts to those who mourn is not a sunny face or empty hope or trite it is abiding friendship that sits and is present in the lament. Here we find our common humanity.

Before peace, before the laying down of weapons, before the end of wars civil and global must always come the entering into of the pain and suffering of the other. Putting up with another, living with the other, is very different from being present with the other in their pain and suffering.

What does the Christian do? We lament. We remember, we learn the names, we lament and we pray.