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.


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

Friday, October 23, 2015

Proper 26B/Ordinary 31B/Pentecost 23 & All Saints - November 1, 2015

Proper 26 B (All Saints Thoughts below)

Quotes That Make Me Think

"Sacrifices and outward worship never pleased God unless we first did the things which we owe to God and our neighbours."

From the Geneva Notes.

"All of us who spend our days swimming in the fickle currents of the church, at war with things both petty and impossible -- tired, sometimes, before the meeting begins -- that we are not far from the kingdom."

"Extra Credit," Robin R. Meyers, The Christian Century, 2000. At Religion Online.

You are one God, O Lord, and beside you there is no other.  You alone are we to love with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.  Sharpen our ears to hear this great commandment.  Arouse our hearts to offer this twofold love.  We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord 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 B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Mark 12:28-34

Oremus Online NRSV Text

The passage is one set with a narrative of confrontation between the religious leaders of Jesus' day and the message that he brings to the world.  The re-genesis of the world is now and the kingdom and dominion of God is now.

God is one, not a static one, but one forever.  God is unity and unifying.  God is working the unity of the world with God and has been doing so from the beginning of time.  The world above and the world below are being unified in the work of Jesus and the work of God. (Marcus, Mark, vol 2, 845)

In a time when God seems distant and when all seems lost, both for the first followers of Jesus and for the Jewish empire itself, this is a radical message.  God is even now joining heaven and earth.

And even more radical is the message it entails: Love God and love neighbor and we shall be connected.  Part of the very work from the creations time is the work of becoming a loving community focused upon God and the neighbor.

I am rereading The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky and remember now the Elder's words in the section entitled "An Unfortunate Gathering," chapter 4.  Here the Elder speaks of active love.

"By the experience of active love. Strive to love your neighbour actively and indefatigably.  In as far as you advance in love you will grow surer of the reality of God and of the immortality of your soul.  If you attain to perfect self-forgetfulness in the love of your neighbour, then you will believe without doubt, and no doubt can possibly enter your soul.  This has been tried. This is certain." (1912 trans by Constance Garnett, p53)

This is love which Jesus speaks about is a "one way love" as my friend the Rev. Dr. Paul Zahl talks about it. God has one way unifying love for the creation and for the creature wherein the two dominions are to be joined together beyond any one man's ability to try and put it asunder.  Jesus tells us that we are to be about this one way love as well.  Our one way love is to be directed towards God and towards others.

On this occasion when I read the passage I enjoyed most Jesus last words to his dear inquisitor: "You are not far from the kingdom of God."  This one way active love is greater than all burnt offerings and sacrifices to be sure; and yet it is so very hard to do!!!

As the Elder offers consolation to the young woman seeking to communicate how hard this active love is he comforts her and then offers:

"I am sorry I can say nothing more consoling to you, for love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams.  Love in dreams is greedy for immediate action, rapidly performed and in the sigh to fall.  Men will even give their lives if only the ordeal does not last long but is soon over, with all looking on and applauding as though on the stage.  But active love is labour and fortitude, and for some people too, perhaps a complete science.  But I predict that just when you see with horror that in spite of all your efforts you are getting further from your goal instead of nearer to it -- at that very moment I predict that you will reach it and behold clearly the miraculous power of the Lord who has been all the time loving and mysteriously guiding you."  (Ibid, 55)

How easy is the dream of doing Jesus' guiding commandment, how hard to be constantly about active love. So you see we are all so very near the kingdom of God.  Just in the moment when all is lost we may in fact clearly recognize the one way love of God and so be redeemed.  And, in the moments when we offer such love on way to the other we are near.

That is good news it seems to me.  We are being joined and knit together in a new creation by God through God's love.  And, we in life, as we draw close we automatically begin to give that love to others.

I doubt this Sunday that a "work harder on loving God and neighbor" sermon will produce the desired results.  But a sermon of God's one way, uniting love, may in fact be just the medicine for the wounded heart and just the thing to knit our own fractured lives together.

Hebrews 9:11-15

"We might even seek to emulate the level of creativity our author has shown when we face the challenge of speaking this same message to people in our day who live in a different symbolic world but face substantially the same needs."

"First Thoughts on Passages on Year B Epistle Passages in the Lectionary,"Pentecost 23, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

God first came to Jesus' people in the wild places. The message in this week's lesson from Hebrews is a great missionary encouragement. It reminds us that the Gospel took place out in the wild in the midst of a tent. The author also reminds us that the old ways were ways that were repeated on a seasonal and regular basis.

Jesus is our great high priest, and while we are called to remember his sacrifice - this is not a repeat of it. We are invited to ponder instead the perfection of Jesus' sacrifice and to worship a living God who has broken open the temple, mended the gulf between heaven and earth, and who invites us once again out into the world, into the wildness for we are free and a redeemed people.

Thoughts for All Saints Sunday

Quotes That Make Me Think

"The epiphany is that we are to see ourselves in Lazarus and see the miracle of his restoration of physical life as the beginning of our entry into eternal life that begins the moment we accept Jesus' offer of relationship with us."

"Lazarus Is Us," Reflections on John 11:1-45, Alyce McKenzie, Edgy Exegesis, Patheos, 2011.

"This story about Lazarus shares much in common with that of the Samaritan woman at the well. With the Samaritan woman the issue was seeing Jesus as the source of living water as compared to ordinary water. Here the issue is to see Jesus as the source of living life as compared to ordinary life."

Holy Textures, Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, John 11:1-45, David Ewart, 2011.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons

is the multitude, God of all holiness, countless the throng you have assembled from the rich diversity of all earth's children.  With your church in glory, your church in this on lifts up our hands in prayer, our hearts in thanksgiving and praise.  Pattern our lives on the blessedness Jesus taught, and gather us with all the saints into your kingdom's harvest, that we may stand with them and, clothed in glory, join our voices to their hymn of thanksgiving and praise.  We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord 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 B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on John 11:32-44

Some congregations will move All Saints to this Sunday, so it seemed appropriate to also spend a few minutes reflecting on the Gospel appointed in this year's cycle for All Saints.  This is also our reading in Year A, Lent 5.  I begin with one of my favorite prayers:

O my all-merciful God and Lord,
Jesus Christ, full of pity:
Through Your great love You came down
and became incarnate in order to save everyone.
O Savior, I ask You to save me by Your grace!
If You save anyone because of their works,
that would not be grace but only reward of duty,
but You are compassionate and full of mercy!
You said, O my Christ,
"Whoever believes in Me shall live and never die."
If then, faith in You saves the lost, then save me,
O my God and Creator, for I believe.
Let faith and not my unworthy works be counted to me, O my God,
for You will find no works which could account me righteous.
O Lord, from now on let me love You as intensely as I have loved sin,
and work for You as hard as I once worked for the evil one.
I promise that I will work to do Your will,
my Lord and God, Jesus Christ, all the days of my life and forever more.

Prayer of St. John Chrysostom

"The point of the saying, and ultimately of the narrative as a whole, is to make and celebrate the claim that people who believe in Jesus find life. It is eternal life, which includes timelessness or eternity in the temporal sense, but the focus is quality not quantity. It is sharing the life of God here and now and forever." writes William Loader.

John's Gospel is a wonderful proclamation of the power, divinity, and transformation that is available to every person through Jesus Christ. The author has written, among the four Gospels, a compelling witness to Jesus as Lord and Savior, as the giver of light, breath, and life from the very creation of the earth.

The story of the raising of Lazarus has never ceased to inspire and enliven both my imagination and my heart for the work of the Gospel. Our Gospel this week is the highest of revelationary narratives in the Gospel in both form and in content.

Jesus' raising of Lazarus is a reason why so many follow him and is clear in 12:17-18. He is as we know and have been experiencing throughout the Lenten readings the giver of life. (see 5:25-29), and precipitating his death (see 11:53). If we were reading along we would see that this is the last of a second set of miracle stories in John's Gospel that follow and highlight Jesus' teaching and conversation with his followers.

The passage begins with Jesus away and teaching, he is not present for his friend or his friends family. They come to get him and tell him that Lazarus has died. The words used to describe Jesus reaction to this are words that tell us he was affected greatly by the news. Again Jesus speaks of the work that must be done while he is with them, and that the work must be done in the light. Certainly these are like the other sayings that we have seen apocalyptic forecasts. Nevertheless, the very real human loss and desire for life is ever present as Jesus leaves to go to where Lazarus is buried.

He is of course returning to a place where he has shown power before and a place of danger. You might remember that he was almost stoned though he passed through them. 10:31, 39.

Jesus states that Lazarus has fallen asleep. This is a common reference to death in the time of Jesus and after. Chris Haslaam has done some very good research and provides links for other parts of the New Testament that say the same thing: "A common New Testament description of death: see Matthew 9:24; Mark 5:39; Acts 7:60; 1 Corinthians 15:6; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; 5:10. (In several of these verses, the NRSV has died; however, the Greek can also be translated fell asleep.) [NOAB]"

Jesus words of peace and comfort are kind and simple....things will be better...they will be all right. Yet we must also realize that the word used here is one that means "to be saved." Sosthesetai is translated into "be saved." It is the word for salvation. Our witness to the raising of Lazarus is not simply a witness then to healing story, or an act of kindness, or a hopeful act, but a transformational act of restoration of health - of true salvation. It is a miracle, which like the other miracles in John's Gospel, clearly represent the work of glorifying God through the ministry of Jesus.

We are told that Lazarus had been in the grave for three days. There is a lot written around the idea of the Jewish burial services and the timeliness of such activities once the person has died. But I do not wish to get into this though it is interesting. I believe that the real meat of the text is in the conversation about salvation and resurrection.

As we continue the discourse on the resurrection we note that the Pharisees believed, along with other popular movements of the day, that all the Jews would be raised. Gentiles too if their integrity was judged by God to be suitable. I like how Chris Haslaam has written about these next two verses.

Verse 25: Jesus modifies Pharisaic doctrine. His words are not only about resurrection but also about the fate of those faithful to him. Jesus is not only the agent of final resurrection but also gives life now: see also Romans 6:4-5; Colossians 2:12; 3:1. Mere physical death can have no hold over the believer. [NOAB]
Verse 26: The believer has passed from the death of sin into life: see also Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8. [BlkJn]
Jesus then gives life now and in the age to come. Immediately Martha offers the same statement as the blind man in last weeks lesson. Her words, while a question refer to previous affirmations in the Gospel. She is convinced...convinced that the proclamation of Andrew on the Galilean shore was true 1:41. She is convinced that Nathanael's proclamation is true. 1:49. She is convinced that the good news revealed int he feeding of the 5 thousand is true. 6:14.

Jesus approaches the tomb and calls Lazarus forth. It is not a resurrection story. But we cannot miss the connections as Jesus calls forth the dead from the tomb as he will most certainly do in the Easter miracle bringing all of the saints into light.

I also am struck by the reality that Lazarus must be unbound and that many participate with Jesus in this work of freeing him from death into life, from darkness into light.

The Gospel tells us that this miracle of reviving Lazarus is for the glory of God. It is also brings many more into the Jesus movement. We cannot see the disturbing events that lay ahead of Jesus without seeing the impact of this great miracle on the movement itself. For surely, as the Gospel testifies, the leaders of the day were worried and concerned.

This is a great miracle story. It is one that is rich with inter-textual meaning and connections. It highlights Jesus' as the one who gives life and breath. As Jesus says in the beginning of the text day is becoming night, and yet as we read we see that it will be Jesus who brings us out of the shadow of the darkness of the tomb into the light of day.

The witness of this passage is an evangelical one pointing us to the truth of the person of Jesus Christ so that we might believe and then raise the dead ourselves!

We are here at the precipice of our readings of Jesus' ministry.  On this day we remember the saints of God who have gone before us, we are mindful then of our own tomb and our own death yet to come.  We hope in God and Christ Jesus that this death will not be an end but a passing.  We hoep with sure and certain faith that God has raised Lazarus and in his work to bridge the kingdom of God with the world that we shall be scooped up into his harms, unbound from our eathly ego and all that binds us.

We continue the longest series of readings from the book of Revelation this week.  In today's passage the vision is of a new heaven and new earth.  The first things have passed away.

As a number of theologians point out the book of Revelation squarely places the kingdom of God's work on earth.  Rather than the heavens consuming the earth as in many other apocalyptic tradition the image and theme of Revelation is that heaven comes to earth; the fulfillment of the incarnation and the work of Jesus.

At the wedding at Cana of Galilee one can imagine the bride and groom and the many attendees gathered around enjoying the company of one another.  The image though of the bride of Christ given in the previous chapter is not a wedding feast where earth is brought into heaven and all rejoice.  It is instead an image of a beautiful and wondrous earthly city.  It is a place of hospitality to the stranger and  a place of rest for the weary pilgrim, and peace for God's people.  Tears are wiped away in this place and the world itself is transformed.

Such a city has been on the hearts and minds of Christians from Augustine to the slave, from the missionary to the persecuted.  It is found in the writings of William Blake and is present in the abolitionist and civil rights leader's voice.

In revelation we are not offered a future hope of heavenly bliss but a transformed earth.  The resurrection happens on earth and so to will the reign of God.  We can all think of the Armageddon images and films which promise some form of escapism from the world.  This is not quite the image we find in Revelation.  The earth is made new.  Not unlike the Christ after resurrection where he is more present, more real, than he was before the same may be said for the new earth.  The reign of God on earth will be more present and more real.  What has been seen only in part will be revealed in an even greater way.

The earth which has been sowed for power and ruled by authorities other than God will be changed.  It isn't so much that the earth or seas will be no more as they will no longer be used and corrupted by powers outside of the reign of God.  The earth that is made new is sustainable and God will provide for his people.  This will be a new world, remade, and reordered such that the power of Rome or Babylon cannot keep the waters of life from those who seek it.  This vision is transformative and promises a different world which will provide all that is needed for its population. The hungry and thirsty will receive good things to eat and drink.  The powers that have ruled the world and corrupted the creation and the creatures will no longer have dominion.

The city which John envisions comes down from heaven to earth is a sight for us all.  It is a revelation of a new earth; and the promise of a creation which supports bounteous life under the reign of a loving and providing God.

No comments:

Post a Comment