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 can open the monthly calendar to the left and find the readings in order.

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

Enjoy.

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

Thursday, October 31, 2019

All Saints C November 3, 2019

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 valor;
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,WorkingPreacher.org, 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 Textweek.com

Prayer
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 lives 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 forever 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 is 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 highlights 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 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 sonship. 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 let us 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 lives 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, 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..."  - the 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 is 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 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 a saintly life by acting as a people who are saved and that such action is marked by a love of neighbor just as the love of God is the saving power.


Saturday, October 19, 2019

Proper 25C / Ordinary 30C / Pentecost +20 October 27, 2019

Prayer
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 forever and ever. Amen.

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






Some Thoughts on Luke 18:9-14

"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,WorkingPreacher.org, 2010.

"Far from condemning all Pharisees, Jesus is using one as an example of virtue 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.


Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

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 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

Esmeralda
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

Parishioners
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

Esmeralda

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 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 Christians 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?

We need to remember that this series of lessons from Luke began with Jesus revealing the work that the disciples must do. Then the disciples respond with a question about how we will have the faith to do it. While there are intermittent questions by the religious leaders, it is clear that Jesus intends his followers to be considerably different than the religion of his day...and our own.


Some Thoughts on 2 Timothy 4:6-18

"Paul is an inspiration, a mirror in which to see one's own experience, a challenge to stay on course to the end and somehow also to find the peace that comes from simply pouring oneself out without breaking oneself down by feeling one has always to be successful and hold everything together."
First Thoughts on Year C Epistle Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 23, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.


"Payback -- it's one of the dominant themes in art and narrative."
Commentary, 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18, Matt Skinner, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2013.


"What we have here recorded is Paul's own farewell discourse."
Commentary, 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18, Pentecost 22C, Dirk G. Lange, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2010.




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.


Some Thoughts on Joel 2:23-32


"The prophet Joel writes in response to an ecological disaster, a plague of locusts that exceeded their regular breeding and feeding cycles."
Commentary, Joel 2:23-32, Pentecost 22C, Wil Gafney, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2010.

"Were anyone to quiz congregants filing in to worship about the content of the little book of Joel, chances are good that few could cogently respond."
Commentary, Joel 2:23-32, Walter C. Bouzard, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2016.



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 particularly 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.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Proper 24C / Ordinary 29C / Pentecost +29 October 20, 2019


Prayer

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.

Picture: Louise Adler, female lightweight world boxing champion of the 1920s, training for her title defense. 


Some Thoughts on Luke 18:1-8

"...it 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.


Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text



Women have been boxing for a long time! Lousie Adler was a great fighter in her day. Today Alicia Ashley is the oldest woman boxer and World Champion at age 50. The passage is one of my favorites. It speaks about prayer and speaks about justice. And, the keyword is this bit about boxing. The woman in the parable is not merely persistent but is physically going to hit him.

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?

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

" Another avenue a sermon might follow leads strictly into 2 Timothy 4:3 and its interesting comment about people with itching ears, who accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires.  It is an accusation any group might make against those who don't listen “properly, and at its root, we find a common human tendency, that of surrounding ourselves with teachers and voices who say only the things we want to hear."
Commentary, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5, Matt Skinner, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2013.


"Tradition is, of course, very important in many church communities? perhaps in all, even if 'tradition' can have various meanings."
Commentary, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5, Dirk G. Lange, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2010.


"How could what began as good news for the broken hearted who cried out for change become the sedative for the comfortable? How could the way of the cross become a pathway for success and a sanction for protecting our own interests, personal or national?"
    "First Thoughts on Year C Epistle Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 22, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.


    Oremus Online NRSV New Testament Text



    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 in the 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, 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 us...it 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.


    Some Thoughts on Jeremiah 31:27-34


    "Lent is a time for honesty that may disrupt the illusion of well-being that is fostered by the advocates of indulgent privilege and strident exceptionalism that disregards the facts on the ground. Against such ideological self-sufficiency, the prophetic tradition speaks of the brokenness of the covenant that makes healthy life possible."
    "Ferguson and Forgiveness," Walter Bruegemann, ON Scripture, Odyssey Networks, 2015. Video: Race in America.


    "The promise of a 'new covenant' in this passage may evoke the Christian scriptures, stories, and promises for many readers. Yet in their original context these words signified the promise of a faithful God to a devastated people for restoration, perhaps even in their lifetimes."
    Commentary, Jeremiah 31:27-34, Wil Gafney, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2010.


    "The early Christians saw this new covenant as dawning in the life and ministry of the one they called Lord. Yet, obviously, the day, now two millennia gone, has yet to move beyond the mere shadow of that dawn."
    The Weeping Prophet, reflections on Jeremiah 31;27-34 by John C. Holbert, Patheos, 2010.




    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 do 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 sins.

    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. 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 a community and the person of Jesus Christ as revealed in the prophesy of Jeremiah.


    Some Thoughts on Genesis 32:3-31

    "What if we imagine, Working Preacher, that church is a place we can come to each week and bring all our other names with us, confessing them honestly and then leaving them behind, departing the assembly simply as Christians, those who bear the name of Christ and armed with the love, commitment, and courage of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Israel, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
    "The Power of Names," David Lose, Dear Working Preacher, 2013.


    "Sometimes I cannot believe that I saw it and lived but that I only dreamed I saw it. Sometimes I believe I saw it and that I only dream I live."
    "Jacob's Wrestle," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.


    "Wouldn't it be easier just to walk away?"
    "Jacob Fights Back," Lia Scholl, The Hardest Question, 2013.

    "God does not punish Jacob's conflictive character, but challenges it and reshapes it so that Jacob is able to live into his promised destiny as Israel, which according to verse 29 means 'one who strives with God and humans.'"
    Commentary, Genesis 32:22-31, Amy Merrill Willlis, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2014.



    Oremus Online NRSV Old Testament Text

    It may have been a bit since you looked at this passage so let's rehearse it a bit. Jacob and his brother are at odds - to say the least. In fact, Jacob is a pretty rough character. He has been serving Laban for a long time and he is now returning home. He has "outwitted" Laban into giving him a lot of sheep making him a wealthy man. He has wives and a whole household. Laban was a tricky character too but Jacob gets the best of him.

    The fact that gods wrestle with humans is itself mythical trope. The mythic creatures or gods of places will stand guard for those who wish to cross. The form of this story then would have been familiar to people hearing it for the first time. The difference, of course, is that this is not a water sprite or a god from the Nile. 

    This is the very God- the divine one who set the planets in their courses, separated the land from the sea, gives creatures breath, molds the dry land, and brings all life into being. We may not know where this narrative comes from but we know the purpose of its inclusion is to speak about God's willingness to wrestle with humanity and humanity's willingness to wrestle with God. It is a kind of story about how humans come to be named and that is by knowing the most high God and being named by God and marked as God's forever. Here is the meaning of the hip being put out of joint. 

    At this moment we have Jacob becoming the father of Israel. He is being made new. He is the one who has wrestled with his brother from the beginning and he is the one who has had to be cunning lest the world takes advantage of him. He is a master of not getting played. Now, after coming through the struggles of the past God has chosen him, marked him, named him, and he is to be the father of God's people. 

    Interesting too, he has made peace with Laban and now he will make peace with his brother. This is a truly important part of the story. Though it is the beginning of the 33 chapter it is intimately linked to the passage for today. 

    From Chapter 33's first verses:
    Now Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. 2He put the maids with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. 3He himself went on ahead of them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near his brother. 4But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.
    I think what is so very important here for us is that one does not make peace with one's brothers and sisters unless one first makes peace with God. Unless you know you have wrestled with God, even had your hip put out of joint unless you are renamed by God, and then set free by God...you will have a very difficult time doing the work of reconciliation. It is only after such a night as this that Jacob comes, "bowing himself to the ground seven times" before his brother. This is a position of humility and apology. It is a position of respect and understanding of how he has wronged his brother. Here then Esau is able to see his brother as his brother once more. In a very real way, this story is a reversal story of the Cain and Abel creation story. 



    Sermon Preached on these passages:


    Boxing Lessons Jan 29, 2009, Sermon preached at Trinity Church, Houston, Texas It turns out that Patrick who is mentioned in this story would eventually box others. I on the other hand, after learning how to box...will not. 

    Wednesday, October 2, 2019

    Proper 23C / Ordinary 28C / Pentecost +18 October 13, 2019


    Prayer
    The Church of the Ten Lepers in the West Bank.
    One of the oldest Churches in the world. 
    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 forever and ever. Amen.


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


    Some Thoughts on Luke 17:11-19

    "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,WorkingPreacher.org, 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, WorkingPreacher.org, 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.



    Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text


    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.

    At 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 more. Faith is also a 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 a table and in the world.

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



    Some Thoughts on 2 Timothy 2:3-15

    "If Timothy hasn't yet figured out that success in his ministry isn't predicated on his creativity and insight, this part of the letter might fix that."
    Commentary, 2 Timothy 2:8-15, Matt Skinner, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2013.


    "Are we credible teachers of the word? Can we stand and share God's word accurately?"
    "Studying the Law As We Study the Word," Yolanda Smith, ON Scripture, Odyssey Networks, 2013.


    ""And now, brothers, I will ask you a terrible question, and God knows I ask it also of myself. Is the truth beyond all truths, beyond the stars, just this: that to live without him is the real death, that to die with him is the only life?""
    "To Die With Him," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.



    Oremus Online NRSV New Testament Text



    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 concerns 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 in the 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. 

    Some Thoughts on Jeremiah 29:1-7


    "It was for all intents and purposes the end of the world."
    Commentary, Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7, Wil Gafney, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2010.


    "Real hope for the people, according to Jeremiah, lay not in some immediate relief from social and communal death, but in living through that experience as faithful people, awaiting the Lord?s 'future with hope'."
    Jeremiah 29:1-7, The Old Testament Readings: Weekly Comments on the Revised Common Lectionary, Theological Hall of the Uniting Church, Melbourne, Australia.


    The prophet does not speak this for the affection that he bore to the tyrant, but that they should pray for the common rest and quietness that their troubles might not be increased, and that they might with more patience and less grief wait for the time of their deliverance, which God had appointed most certain: for not only the Israelites but all the world yea and the insensible creatures would rejoice when these tyrants would be destroyed, as in Isa 24:4."
    from John Calvin's Geneva Notes (c.1599).



    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.



    Tuesday, October 1, 2019

    Proper 22C / Ordinary 27C / Pentecost +17 October 6, 2019

    Prayer

    Alfredo Ramos Martínez, Paisaje Mexicano / Mexican Landscape,
    ca. 1935. Gouache and Conté crayon on paper,
    27 x 32 1/2 inches.
    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

    "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.

    Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text



    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 continue 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 that 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 provide 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 a 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 an amendment of life and forgive when we are bound too tightly to the sin of others.” Like the pilgrims in the desert waiting outside the caves, hoping for a word from the desert monks, we shout, “Abba, Father, give us a Word.”


    Some Thoughts on 2 Timothy 1:1-14

    "Faith is a gift of God and also a gift from our forebears in the faith."
    "Indebted Faith," Will Willimon, The Hardest Question, 2013.

    "Being a bearer of the tradition according to 2 Timothy does not mean closing up shop, burying the treasure, to use the imagery of the famous parable. Rather it means ensuring the connections are upheld and consistency maintained, while letting the fire burn and good news shine in our contemporary contexts and never losing sight of this central task, whatever disputes and wrangles, right or wrong, may (and may need to) way-lay us."
    "First Thoughts on Year C Epistle Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 20, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.


    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 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

    "National tragedies threaten to render communities speechless. The collective grief can be overwhelming."
    Commentary, Lamentations 1;1-6, Frank M. Yamada, at WorkingPreacher.org, Luther Seminary, 2010.


    "When the Holy One grieves, He strikes both hands together, clasps them over His heart, then folds His arms as He weeps over the righteous, sometimes secretly, sometimes openly."
    Tears from Jewish Heritage OnLine Magazine. See esp "During the Exiles' Long Night, God Weeps."


    "The book of Lamentations articulates the anguish of the Hebrews in the wake of the conquest of Jerusalem and the razing of the city by Babylon."
    Commentary, Lamentations 1;1-6, Walter C. Bouzard, at WorkingPreacher.org, Luther Seminary, 2013.




    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 the 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 today...in our own...in Israel...in 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 words...no 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.


    Wednesday, August 21, 2019

    Proper 21C / Ordinary 26C / Pentecost +16 September 29, 2019

    Prayer

    To the poor man of the parable, O God, your Son gave the name Lazarus, while the rich man’s only identity begins and ends with his wealth. Do justice for all who are oppressed. Put an end to humanity’s unbridled thoughtlessness. Let us cling to your word in Moses, the prophets and the gospels, so that we may be convinced that Christ is risen from the dead and be welcomed by you into 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 forever and ever. Amen.

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


    Some Thoughts on Luke 16:19-31

    "How far may we push a parable? Should we regard parables as helpful fictions that open our imaginations to new possibilities, or should we approach them as condensed pedagogical vehicles designed to carry specific teachings?"

    Commentary, Luke 16:19-31, Greg Carey, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2010.

    "Nothing quite like a sermon about a rich guy going to hell just before the fall Stewardship campaign kicks off, is there? Seriously, though, the clarity of today's Gospel reading offers a stark contrast to the ambiguous, even confusing lection of last week. But what, precisely, is this passage clear about?"

    "In God We Trust: God & Money, Pt. 2," David Lose, Working Preacher, 2010.

    "A reversal at the outset of the story is that the beggar is given a name and the rich man is not. That single fact ought to alert us that the story we are about to hear is going have surprises in it."

    Holy Textures, Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, Luke 16:19-31, David Ewart, 2010.


    Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text



    I cannot begin my reflection upon the story of Lazarus without pointing out the several verses that begin this pericope; without which I believe the context may indeed be lost.

    Luke tells us that the “Pharisees were money lovers.” They were disdainful of Jesus and of his teachings about wealth and stewardship. Jesus tells them that while they may justify their lives and manner of living in front of the people that God knows their hearts. No matter how society treats the privileged - God will see that they truly serve wealth and not God alone. Jesus also is clear that the reign of God, the kingdom, is now being proclaimed and all are being urged to enter it. Jesus then gives the words on divorce and how in God’s eyes it is adultery.

    Scholars point out that “idolatry, money, and divorce are joined in the law by the term bdelygma.” (Luke Timothy Johnson, Luke, 255) The word is translated from Greek into English with the meaning abomination, or abuse. Fornication is added to the list in the Qumran writings. (LTJ, 255) Jesus brings us all up short reminding us with these words of the singular focus upon God that is called for in the work of discipleship and how we cannot pretend piety when we also live a life of abuse.

    I am not going to enter into the debate between Pelagian and Augustine on the responsibility or depravity of human beings, though this passage clearly touches on this theological theme. Nevertheless, these first words of the passage tell us that Jesus understands that his followers are to enter into virtuous living. The reign of God has a particular life that is lived and that life is one focused upon God. Those who reject the prophet will, in turn, be rejected by God.

    I want to now remind us that Jesus is clear that John’s prophetic Gospel which begins with repentance and turning to the Lord is essential. Jesus says in this passage “the law and the prophets continue through John.” Luke Timothy Johnson believes that Jesus in the polemical speech may be challenging those who listen, and maybe rhetorically asking, “Can those who love wealth even hear the law, the prophets, and the proclamation of the Gospel?” (255)

    The way in which we might read the parable now of Lazarus is through the lens of these polemical teachings about a life lived in the reign of God. It is, in fact, teaching which illustrates the beatitudes themselves.

    6:20 "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 "Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. "Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 "Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. 24 "But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 "Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger. "Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 "Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

    The blessings and the woes are clearly illustrated in the characters of Lazarus and the wealthy man.

    The parable continues past the result of lives lived and rewards received in Heaven. The rich man still wants Lazarus to serve him to serve his brothers. We then discover that the rich man was more than wealthy he was a hard-hearted man for he did not pay any attention to Lazarus in their life together. Luke Timothy Johnson reminds us of the law laid out in the Talmud: “Whoever turns away his eyes from one who appeals for charity is considered as if he were serving idols.” (256).

    I have over time heard a lot of sermons on this passage. Most of them shy away from the issue of rejection. Jesus is clear though if one rejects God in this life if one rejects living in the reign of God in this life if one rejects the work of the reign of God in this life one will be rejected in the life to come.

    In some way, I want to chart a clear path for the Christian response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are charged to live a virtuous life. We, humans, have a very difficult life living such a life devoted to others and to God. It is natural for us to be selfish and to seek our own desires over the desires of others. Yet we are in the end also responsible for our life and our living.

    I am convinced that how we live our lives today affects how we live our lives in the reign of God (realized in this world and in the age to come). The blessing of the cross and the resurrection is not our free ticket out of jail, but rather the removal of the stumbling block of sin that we may serve others and God in the name of Jesus Christ. We are to live a glorious life of caring and service. This is the greatest narrative to be told, and the living of the tale is what will ultimately be what attracts others into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Like the Pharisees, we must recognize and name all that separates us from the love of God, claim our own abominations and the chasm we have dug for ourselves. After the repentance of John is undertaken in response to the message of Christ then we must realize the life we have been given is for living. We must live our lives in Christ and live them for the Lazarus dwelling at our own city gate..

    Now that you have accepted your redemption and promised to live a life of Christ open your eyes to those sitting at the gates around you. See their faces. Know their names. Change their lives. We are to do nothing less than bring into this world the reign of God that the Lazarus at our gates may begin life in the bosom of Abraham today.


    Some Thoughts on I Timothy 6:6-19

    "Righteousness is getting it all right. If you play it the way it's supposed to be played, there shouldn't be a still foot in the house."
    "Righteousness," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.


    "'Fight the good fight,' he says (1 Timothy 6:12), where it's not the fight to overcome the best of the competition that he's talking about but the fight to overcome the worst in ourselves."
    "Run with Perseverance," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.


    "The author does not envisage preaching which rebukes the rich and then leaves them with unreal choices which their intelligence knows are wrong and from which they then switch off, innoculated against future challenges. Rather 6:17-19 speaks about using one's wealth effectively."
    "First Thoughts on Year C Epistle Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 19, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

    "Material wealth can get in the way of putting one's trust in God, and it can be a hindrance to following Jesus (Mark 10:17-22). Yet many of the church ministries and services depend on financial resources of those who are willing to share them. Therefore, those who have riches "are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life" (1 Timothy 6:18-19)."
    Commentary, 1 Timothy 6:6-19, Chriatian A. Eberhart, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2013.



    In typical liturgical style, we have skipped great portions of Paul's letter and now we draw to the end of the letter.  We get here to the meat of the call for reform from Paul.  He directly engages the Ephesian community on the topic of their wealth.

    Paul says, "...those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains."

    Paul offers a different view of the God follower.  The God follower pursue the following: "pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness."  The followers of God "Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses."  This is the difference between those who follow Jesus and those who follow the money.

    Paul of course in Timothy is talking about the false teachers. So, this passage is not simply about the follower of God in general.  It is mostly about the reality of the religious teachers who are teaching false doctrine and trying to use it to gain wealth.  For Paul, this is the most untenable and sinful situation.

    This particular passage is directly focused not on the individual in the pew but rather on the one in the pulpit! So...beware preaching to your people about how they use their wealth and remember that this passage is mostly directed at the religious practitioner.  This passage through bridges Paul's writing against the false teachers and his positive encouragement.  So, let us not stop at the part which raises a judgmental eye, let us instead continue on.

    Paul says God gives life to all things.  Christ Jesus modeled how to confess the truth.  And these two things already dwell in the religious practitioner. Paul is saying you are made by God and you yourself bear witness to his truth.  God is light and lord of all.  Your calling is to face bravely the rich.  You are to inspire them to set their hope on God "who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment."  Inspire the rich in your midst, "to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share."  Preach these things and tell them that they are living in the realm of God, they are living upon the foundation of the reign of God.  Moreover, when they live in this manner they will have life and have it abundantly.

    What I find interesting is that Paul, while clear about the sinfulness/brokenness of the person who is wealthy and seeks their security and hope on wealth, he does not say to shame them.  Instead, he urges inspiration. He urges face your people and invite them to do good work, to be known by their good works, to be generous, and share what they have.  These are the marks of the follower of God.  These are the marks that reveal us as followers of God.


    Some Thoughts on Jeremiah 32:1-15






    Over the last month we have been preparing for the invasion. Nebuchadnezzar II into Judah and the Egyptian armies into the south. A puppet ruler is placed in power - Zedekiah. 

    Jeremiah is imprisoned as a prophet in the line of Anathoth and as a deserter. He attempts to go home without luck and finds himself imprisoned.

    And, while he is in under guard he takes the opportunity to purchase some land in his home town.

    What is the meaning of all of this? Are these simply little factoids about his life and the crazy workings of kings and powers that swirl around as the plans of men are brought to their inevitable end in the triumph of Israel's enemies?

    Perhaps the purchase of the land is itself an outward and visible sign that even as the destruction of the kingdoms is at hand, as was prophesied in last week's lesson, God is at work renewing the garden of Israel.

    As Garrett Galvin, Old Testament professor and OSM at the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif., writes:
    In the future just as God will watch over building and planting, God will also watch over a time when “all shall die for their own sins.” Jeremiah announces a freedom that takes us right back to the Garden of Eden. Everyone can make the same choice as Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or not. We find here a reversal of the downward spiral of sin initiated in the primeval history of Genesis. 
    Commentators have noted the eschatological nature of the renewal found in the new covenant of verses 31-34. This eschatology can easily be seen as conditioned by the goodness of creation found at the beginning of Genesis. Protology is eschatology and eschatology is protology. Earlier in this chapter, Jeremiah has announced that God “has created a new thing on the earth” (Jeremiah 31:22). Now we hear of a new covenant in verse 31. The Bible invokes the theme of newness repeatedly in another important eschatological book: Revelation (see 21:1, 2, 5). Jeremiah invokes God’s goodness to Israel in the exodus from Egypt, but not even this goodness is enough to understand what God will do. We can easily imagine this new covenant initiating a new beginning like after the flood and Noah’s ark.

    Frank M. Yamada, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at McCormick Theological Seminary, offers that our witness to the land deal is actually not only a witness to legal purpose, but a witness to the purposes of God being set into place even as the hoard is at the gate. This is a tangible sign of the promise Galvin speaks of and Jeremiah prophesies.

    The detail in verses 16--25 has a meaningful function in this text. It not only shows the complete extent to which Jeremiah has fulfilled the instruction of the LORD--a perfect obedience. Jeremiah's meticulous fulfillment of this command also points to the prophet's and God's careful attention to a future that is still very distant and hard to see given the current circumstances. This hope is as certain as the Babylonian armies that are at the gate. Thus, the observers of this transaction are not there simply to verify the purchase of land. They are witnesses to the future that the LORD has announced through Jeremiah's prophetic action.