Finding the Lessons

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

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

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

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

Enjoy.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Proper 8C / Ordinary 13C / Pentecost +6

Quotes That Make Me Think

"It is easy for us to say, Come, see our zeal for the Lord! and to think we are very faithful in his cause, when we are seeking our own objects, and even doing harm instead of good to others."

From Matthew Henry's Commentary (c. 1700).

"Whether we think of ourselves as aliens, strangers, nomads, or pilgrims on this earth, it is because we follow Jesus, and that often takes us into new ways of living!"

Commentary, Luke 9:51-62, Michael Rogness, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2013.

"So what if the deepest calling of a Christian disciples isn't to be in control – ourselves or vicariously through God – but rather to give up the illusion, to take some risks, and to throw ourselves into this turbulent life and world God loves so much trusting that God will join us in the adventure, hold onto us through all the ups and downs, and brings us in time to the other side."

"Out of Control," David Lose, Dear Working Preacher, 2013.


General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from Textweek.com

Prayer

Sustain us in our decision to follow where Jesus leads, and by the power of your own love, at once both strong and gentle, keep us faithful to Christ and compassionate in serving others.  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 9:51-62
Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

We begin this Gospel lesson with two striking images. The first is the use of the words: “for his being
taken up.” This is the only place in the New Testament where this phrase is used. Hearkening back to Elijah, we can see that Luke intends for his narrative focus to be upon the ascension. (Luke Timothy Johnson, Luke, Sacra Pagina, 162) What is interesting to me here is how much we focus on so many other things in Luke’s Gospel. Nevertheless, there is seemingly a continued focus on the reign of God into which Jesus is taken. There is also a great sense in these first words of our passage of an urgency that surrounds the events that follow. This is the second striking image of the first words from our passage. Jesus is setting his face like a flint towards Jerusalem. The time is now and he is going there now! We must follow now! Come on lets get going.  His being "taken up" will soon occur!

Perhaps it is the elongated waiting for Jesus’ return that makes us loose the urgency of Jesus mission? Yet the call is before us again in this passage; and it is urgent.

To help get the people ready Jesus sends messengers with the purpose of making ready. Again we see that Jesus is in the land of Samaritans, and not in the land of the faithful. This paradox continues to reflect Jesus’ focus on those outside the faithful community and for the church today returns our attention on the people outside our Christian communities. Are we being sent out into the world to prepare the way of the Lord? And, are we answering the call on our lives to do so? Or, are we sitting in our pews waiting for the world of the Samaritan to come in?

Luke Timothy Johnson gives us some history on the differences between the Samaritan and the Temple worship in Jerusalem. It appears that not unlike our disputes in the church today it was about who is a true believer.
“The ancestral antipathy between Judeans and Samaritans is reflected in this verse. It was based on the rivalry between shrines of Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Zion, and on a whole cluster of disputes concerning the right way to read the sacred books, messianism and above all, who was a real Israelite. See e.g., Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 20:119-138; John 4:9-20).” (LTJ, Luke, 162)

The disciples’ response finding that the Samaritans are not receptive is not unlike the complaints of why we shouldn’t bother reaching out to our communities. Why bother? Let the dice fall how they fall…let fire be cast down on them. They aren’t like us at all. They really don’t belong. This lack of vision for the mission of God is as wrongly placed today as it was when those first messengers returned to Jesus. Jesus’ response is clear, he is here to save and not to destroy.

So we get the message. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. He is prophetically breaking into the world and bringing with him the reign of God. His mission is urgent and he is here to save and not to destroy. Old divisions are set aside for the Gospel of Christ. We are offered again the vision of how God sees us and that is a vision of potentiality and a vision of hope that we will see our salvation and join Jesus in the proclamation work, the messenger work. And, so we are told a few hear, a few recognized, a few see who this Jesus really is and what he is up to. So they are eager to follow.

Luke Timothy Johnson reminds us that the threefold call and offer are similar to the threefold willingness of Elisha to follow Elijah in the period just before his ascension, again bringing into focus the great prophetic work of Jesus. (LTJ, Luke, 162)

The problem is that while these want-to-be followers of Jesus get the invitation and they get the vision, they do not get the urgency or understand the cost. This is a prophet who is homeless until he returns home to heaven. This is a prophet who will not rest till rest is won for all. Jesus’ proclamation of the reign of God and his mission sees the potential future of the restoration of God’s world as the highest goal and makes clear the consequences of following.

When we choose to follow we must be attentive like the ploughman. We cannot take our eye off the work and the mission -- to do so is to risk wondering aimlessly and destroying the good work and labor already performed.

Luke Timothy Johnson writes the following about Jesus’ challenge to his audiences and how he calls each into action:

Luke is very careful to note Jesus’ audience in every instance. To each group, furthermore, Jesus speaks quite different sorts of words: to the crowd, he issues warnings and calls to conversion. To those who convert and become disciples, he gives positive instructions on discipleship. Finally, to those who resist his prophetic call, he tells parables of rejection.

Luke gives dramatic structure to these sayings by carefully alternating the audiences. Throughout the journey (as the notes will indicate), Luke has Jesus turn form one group to the other, form cord to disciples to Pharisees. The narrative that results form this “arrangement” is therefore filled with unexpected tension: the Prophet makes his way to Jerusalem, to his death and “lifting up.” As he goes, he speaks the word of God to those around him. Some hear and become part of the people. Others reject the word and are themselves in process of being rejected from the people. The climax is reached with Jesus reaches the city and is greeted, now not by a handful o followers (cf. 8:1-3) but by a “whole multitude of disciples” (19:37) prepared to hear the teaching of the Prophet in the precincts of the Temple. (165)

Several questions come to mind for the preacher. Do we know to whom we are talking? Can we, like Jesus, direct our words in accordance with the challenge needed to be heard by those listening? Are we actually able to proclaim the word of God in different contexts, clearly being aware of the challenge before the one’s in front of us?

Another set of questions arises as I reflect on the particular passage and wonder are we giving positive messages and instruction that help those within our church be better disciples? What does that look like in today’s American church context?

Do we have the sense of urgency needed to motivate our congregation to action?

Are our people ready to hear the teaching of Jesus? Or are our churches filled with individuals who have more in line with the crowd in Luke’s Gospel?

Missionary context and the wisdom to navigate it with solid teaching is an essential ingredient for the modern day priest. Today people are out there in the world soaking up religious and spiritual information from the internet, and the book store, and at the water cooler. They come to church on any given Sunday or during the week and they turn to the leaders of our churches and expect us to have a message. Like the pilgrims who entered the dessert seeking out the solitaries: Abba, give us a word.

Church life today is manifestly different from the pilgrim journey to Jerusalem with Jesus. There are bills to pay, metrics to reach, and leadership groups to contend with – all this is true. But the message of Jesus, the message of the possibility of the reign of God, is no less urgent. The people who live out in the world are turning to their leaders and asking for a word. We must be ready to give it to them. We must reclaim our preaching and teaching office as clergy in the church of God. And, I would argue that we must raise up around us others who also can teach and share in the discipleship and mentoring needed to transform our church into the vision that we had when we joined; a vision that offered hope for the future, and plenty of labor for the laborer. We must recapture and reclaim our churches as places, along the road with Jesus, where those who journey with Him can find words which warn and convert, which instruct and offer positive reinforcement for the journey, which talk about division clearly and work towards unity.

What are my excuses to Jesus for why I cannot come and follow? For why I cannot do what is asked?

Fear of the other: They are not like us. They believe differently. They should have fire brought down on their heads.

Fear for my needs: The journey itself looks too difficult. I might find myself homeless.

Fear for of all the things I have to do….
I sometimes wonder how many of us, including myself, ever get past the gratitude for grace into the mission field?


Some Thoughts on Galatians 5:1-25


Resources for Sunday's Epistle

J. Louis Martyn writes regarding vs 4: "Emphasizing a point he has made in 3:11, Paul puts the verb dikaiousthe in the present tense (conative), thus referring to "action attempted, but not accomplished."...These Galatians have come to think that their salvation results from an allegiance to Christ only when the allegiance is enacted in observance of the Law..As soon as one attaches to Law observance some degree of salvific potency, one has violated the gospel of Christ, thus severing oneself from him." (Galatians, 1997, 471)

How many times have we discovered the freedom Christ has given us to follow him than we turn around and make a new law for ourselves and for others?

This is the primary problem with our mission work in the world today. We have gotten everything backwards! We believe that it is only in becoming deeply religious, deeply spiritual, perfect in following scripture...etc, etc that one can be accepted.  What we have forgotten is that as soon as we do this we abandon Christ and his freedom.  When we do this Christianity itself is of "no benefit" to us or to others.  

"Ouch" I want to say to Paul! You got me...I was "running well" but how easy it is to slip into a Christless faith... a faith where in I am the chief hero and the chief protagonist.  I slip into that thinking that will get me no where and can say, "I got my salvation from here God, thanks!"  And in so doing the power of the cross to set me free is removed (vs 11).

How I need to hear Paul's words, "For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.  For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" 

Let us be clear that we understand the fruit of freedom, the results of living out a grace filled life and mission are these things:  "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."

How often do we take the list that goes like this:  fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing and make it the measure of others - never ourselves.  And, create a new law by which others must be circumcised to follow Jesus.

Instead let us simply ask of ourselves are we living in the freedom of Christ and are our communities characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? And if not let us aspire to such a community free from the law by the grace of Christ Jesus.


Some Thoughts on 2 Kings 2:1-15


Resources for Sunday's OT Lessons


The reading for this Sunday is the transition from Elijah to Elisha. The mantle of Sinai prophet is passed along. They are on their way to one of the holy Sinai cult sites - Bethel. They make their way down to Jericho. There they are met by local prophets and keepers of the tradition. So it is they the go on to the Jordan. Elisha travels the whole way with Elijah. 

When they arrive at the Jordan Elijah takes up his mantle and strikes the water with it. Here then the waters divide and they are able to cross on dry ground. The mantle is the great shawl that was worn across his shoulders.

We are meant to see in this journey a walking and claiming of the land promised by Elisha. They crossing over is no mere crossing over but a reenactment of the crossing over the Jordan into the land that is promised.

On the other side Elijah plainly passes on a double spirit of his prophetic powers to Elisha. After this a chariot of fire and horses come down and take Elijah away in the whirlwind. Elisha is left grieved by the event. He then picks the mantle and puts it on. He then reverses the river Jordan crossing. 

We know historically that the prophetic Sinai tradition was strong, especially in the North, but as some scholars now point out in the South as well. Jeremiah certainly being one of those great southern prophets. Nevertheless what we see here is a deep connection with all that is past, with the covenant theology rooted in their tradition.

Elisha's very passing over is not only meant for us readers to see that he will also be a great prophet, or that he is the inheritor of Elijah's spirit, or that he is welcomed by the local prophetic schools. There is, you see, a message we are meant to receive. God makes way, God delivers, God will take care. The prophet themselves is not some kind of inheritor of a magic mantle as he is a very participation in the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. His prophecy and his ministry is rooted in the delivering act of the God who frees Israel and hears the cries of his people.


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