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.


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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Proper 6C / Ordinary 11C / Pentecost +4

Quotes That Make Me Think

"Let the candour with which our Lord accepted this invitation, and his gentleness and prudence at this ensnaring entertainment, teach us to mingle the wisdom of the serpent, with the innocence and sweetness of the dove. Let us neither absolutely refuse all favours, nor resent all neglects, from those whose friendship is at best very doubtful, and their intimacy by no means safe."

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

"But is forgiveness really everything? Can it possibly be worth that much? Consider: forgiveness at heart is the restoration of relationship. It is releasing any claim on someone else for some past injury or offense. That's why the analogy to a debt works so well. Forgiveness cancels relational debt and opens up the future. Which is why it's so important, so valuable."

"Forgiveness and Gratitude," David Lose, Dear Working Preacher, 2013.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from

Your mercies, O God, cannot be counted, nor do you tire of offering us forgiveness. Grant us, then, a heart both faithful and repentant, ready to respond to your great love, so that along all the pathways of life, and to everyone far and wide, we may be able to proclaim the gospel’s message of reconciliation and peace. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

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

Some Thoughts on Luke 7:36-8:3

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

This week we have a lesson that teaches us about hospitality and forgiveness in the reign of God.

We have a dinner party in the home of one of the Pharisees where guests are eating Hellenistic style -- laying back. One can imagine that they were probably laying back on pillows and or couches. Most likely, they would have been facing one another and the table with their feet tucked behind them, making them accessible to the woman. (Luke Timothy Johnson, Luke, 127)

The woman is obviously known as a sinner and her reason for being present is unknown. We might recall the anointing of Jesus in the readings prior to Easter. Here in Luke, this lesson carries none of the same imagery regarding the oil being similar to oils used at burial or that it is expensive oil. This is important so as not to confuse the two stories. Here, Jesus is teaching carefully about the everyday work of living in the reign of God.

I love the next verse. It is as if our narrator is playing or joking with us -- jabbing at the Pharisee. The Pharisee says, “If this fellow were a prophet he would know who and what kind of woman it is who touches him, that she is a sinner.” Jesus of course is a prophet; we have been reading about his prophetic powers in the chapters that precede this one. So we are on the inside and know the Pharisee is wrong. Moreover, we see that Jesus does know her heart and in fact also knows the Pharisee.

Jesus begins and he is quickly cut off by his host who jabs a little himself by cynically saying, “Teacher speak.” Jesus gives us a parable.

Jesus’ parable causes us and his host to think. Who loves the moneylender more? The one who is forgiven a little or a lot?

Luke Timothy Johnson points out that this is a gracious act and that the forgiveness of debt is seen as a gift. The word used for love means gratitude. So a debt is owed, a gift of forgiveness is made, and there is gratitude. (LTJ, Luke, 127)

Jesus then uses the opportunity, having revealed the woman’s gratefulness for her Lord’s forgiveness, to highlight the lack of hospitality by Simon. Yikes! 

Jesus uses the phrase, “you did not give to me,” each time he challenges Simon. Simon did not give water for cleansing, a kiss of greeting or oil for anointing. Johnson writes, “by the logic of the parable, the woman’s actions showed her state of forgiveness. Simon’s refusal, likewise, indicates a lack of forgiveness. There is the edge.” (127)

The woman has reacted with great gratitude because her sins were forgiven and the manner in which she illustrates her gratitude shows, not the reason for the forgiveness but, the level of the forgiveness that was received. God has forgiven her much. One can see this by her expression of faith and gratitude.

Jesus then says, “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.” Johnson points out that this is the first time that faith and the act of saving have been put together. Peace comes to the one who lives in the reign of God, forgiven and free. (128)

Luke Timothy Johnson writes:

“In 7:29-30, the people were divided between sinners and tax-agents who accepted prophets and justified God, and the lawyers and the Pharisees who rejected prophets and also God’s plan. In 7:34, furthermore, Jesus was pilloried as a “friend of sinners” and one who “ate and drank.” Here we find him eating and drinking at table, showing himself a friend to a sinner, who in turn accepts him as a prophet, while the Pharisee rejects him. The ending of this story, in turn, prepares for the next development, in which Luke will show more fully how ‘faith saves.’”

As I sit and write and reflect on preaching this weekend, I wonder how I am in different situations, not unlike the different people in the Gospel story.

How often do I act like Simon, oblivious to my own behavior, while very clear and willing to speak out about another person’s behavior?

How often am I like or unlike Jesus, willing to stand up to the power in the room and offer kindness and hospitality to someone so clearly outside the normal social construct of our own time?

How often do I give back to God a level of gratitude commensurate with my feelings of grace and provision? In other words, do I return to God in keeping with my feelings of forgiveness by God? Or, do I give back based on what I feel I am able to give?

Lest we get to driven here with actions and rules let us go a bit deeper. Robert Farrar Capon, in Kingdom, Grace, Judgement, says that part of this is to understand that we do not deserve the gift of God's presence to begin with, it is gift. When it is given, along with grace and love, then we are to keep it circulating. We are to share it not hoard it or keep others out. We are not to keep our risk low or protect it. And, we are to understand that it isn't all in some way a reward for good and perfect behavior. (422)

Jesus in a very real way is saying to Simon, don't you see, you are a loser. You just don't know it. This woman knows it and is responding.There seem to be four pretty powerful themes this week: lostness, forgiveness, hospitality and stewardship. Each has the power to inspire for the community gathered in a counter-cultural way of responding and being in relationship with God.

Some Thoughts on Galatians 2:15-21

Resources for Sunday's Epistle

Paul is getting into it this week!  Our lesson begins with Paul describing how he has entered the discourse with Cephas.  The argument is over eating with the Gentiles who are not circumcised.  Paul pointing out that this only became a problem after some false teaching made its way into the community.

Paul's believes that they are not acting "consistently with the gospel."  He points out their hypocrisy with this phrase: “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Paul then reorients them to the Gospel:  justification by ourselves is not possible but it is possible in Christ.  Paul writes, "...yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law."

We place our trust in Christ's faith.  It is God's act of rectification, God's love, God's mercy, God's faith upon which we place our trust.  Paul writes: "...the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God."

Paul challenges us to not make a new law.  He challenges the Galatians to not make a new low to build up where the old law was torn down by the cross and resurrection of God in Christ Jesus.

I wonder what kinds of laws we have created informally and formally within our church that keep out the sinners - the friends of Jesus?  We might well take Paul's challenging words to us as a question of what is essential to follow Jesus? Vs. What have we made essential to be a Christian?

Some Thoughts on 1 Kings 21:1-21

Oremus Online NRSV OT Text

Resources for Sunday's OT Lesson

The story this week is a story about how the central Southern Kingdom of Israel is being led by a murderous king and his wife. King Ahab who was a mighty king of Israel takes a vineyard he covets from Naboth. The story tells us of how Ahab and his wife Jezebel plot with leaders beneath Naboth to have him stoned. They do so after a letter writing campaign. Then Ahab takes over the vineyard.

Elijah is sent to him by God to tell him that because of this wickedness that he will die a horrible death. Which in fact he does according to historical records outside of the biblical text - thus bringing Elijah's prophecy to fruition.

One of the things the first hearers of this tale would have known is that this vineyard is located not simply next to a palace but next to Ahab's most powerful chariot/military installations. This is not simply a whim for a vineyard. This is an act of conspiracy aimed at a coup resulting in strengthening his military power at the cost of the death of a just man.

There are two things of interest here. The first is that the story is placed in the scripture itself because of the important role it plays in the overall history of the people of Israel. It is there because of the essential theological understanding that the kings of Israel are always given their power from God and that God will take away their power if they are not just. The question that is posed to Ahab in the scripture is wether or not he "fulfills or fails" his role. The redactor who placed these passages in the great story arc of Israel judge all the kings based upon the great king, in fact their king, David. Here then is Ahab's judgement. ( Van Rad, Old Testament, vol 1, 344)

There is a second underlying conversation going on though. One that may be particularly important for the reader of the gospels. The Sinai prophet tradition, in which Elijah is schooled, is one that is very clear that there is to be no other God but the God of Mount Sinai. The covenant that this God has with God's people is of the highest regard. Rather than the judgement of Ahab being wrote through the eyes of the Davidic kingdom and its authors/redactors, the judgement comes from Sinai.

Here what is essential to understand is the very rejection, in the Sinai tradition, of kingship. In the Sinai tradition there could be no suzerainty. Suzerainty is a political relationship by which the local people of a nation may have autonomy while remaining a part of the occupying power and subservient to it. The Sinai perspective was that the centralized power of both state and religion on Mount Zion was to set up a different king in the place of God, and to place a different set of disciplines around their inherited faith than that which was received in the desert. It is clear that this tradition continued. 

While the vast majority of the scripture of the Old Testament reveals a strong and powerful Sinai tradition, it is also clear that the redactors have attempted to answer the Sinai concerns. They allow for the kinship and suzerainty of a Davidic monarchy under the power of god. But we see when we look close in Deuteronomy 17-18 that the Mosaic covenant, the Sinai prophetic tradition, and the rule of God will continue. The redactors hold that the king will be accountable to God, to Sinai, and to Sinai's prophets. They write in Deuteronomy 18.15ff, "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: 'If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.' Then the Lord replied to me: 'They are right in what they have said. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable." The prophets Elijah and Elisha turned their gaze to exactly this work. ( Jon D. Levenson, Sinai & Zion, 191.) 

I say all of this because what seems very essential to understand is that from Elijah's perspective Ahab is no representative of Israel. The nation state can never supplant the relationship of God and humanity. Power will always be judged as oppressive and a culture of death. Over and against this is the story of God's work with the widow for instance, or any of the ways in which God serves and cares for the poor, the lost, and the least. 

It is typical for us to simply say, "Ahab was a bad king." This is in fact what the powers so very focused on the reign of David want us to see. But what Elijah is really saying is power is corrupt and Ahab, like all other powers of this world is corrupt and will in the end use death as its leverage for more power and authority.

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