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Friday, July 1, 2016

Proper 10C / Ordinary 15C / Pentecost +8 July 10, 2016

Quotes That Make Me Think

"We are all "tribal" by instinct and by habit. We are most comfortable with and usually care most about those like us. But now we live side-by-side with people of many different tribes."

Commentary, Luke 10:25-37 (Pentecost +8), Michael Rogness, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2013.

"Having created the impossible-possibility of a despised no-body doing what is needed to inherit eternal life, ... presents a double challenge. First. To be able to see someone we despise as being able to do what God desires. Second. To imagine ourselves lying left-for-dead in a ditch and being aided by such a one."

Holy Textures, Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, Luke 10:25-37, David Ewart, 2013.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from Textweek.com

Prayer
Fill our hearts, with compassion and generosity toward the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, so that, like Christ, e may become Good Samaritans to the whole world.  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 10:25-37

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

This passage begins with a hostile question from a lawyer. It is the same question from Luke 18:18.
What must one do to inherit eternal life? This phrase “eternal life” interestingly appears very few times in the whole of the New Testament. It appears only 12 times, and five of those times are in Luke’s Gospel. This is not to say that we don’t read about the idea in other ways elsewhere, but it is clear that it only appears in this exact phrasing but a few times.

In this moment Jesus refers him to the passage from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Both commandments are here enjoined as a cliff notes of sorts to the basic teachings of scripture and of Jesus.

In asking who is one’s neighbor with the lawyer we might look at the actual text of Leviticus first to see what it says. When we do we see that it means the following: sons of your own people (Lev 19:18) stranger or sojourner in the land (Lev 19:33-34). (LTJ, Luke, Sacra Pagina, 172) It is interesting to not here that the Pharisees, like those at Qumran understood this only in the first sense of understanding: it was about your own people. Jesus evidently believes it is a much broader group as in the parable we are about to hear.

The story of the Good Samaritan begins. As we have already seen and read in the past few weeks we are reading through a section of Luke focused on Samaria. We arrive at the telling of this story fully aware of the differences between Jerusalem and Samaria. We know of the division, and we are pretty sure that while they are not one of us, Jesus intends for them to be one of us. This message of inclusion is troubling to his first followers and it is troubling to his followers today.

When Jesus finishes the story he reverses the question from a legal obligation to a question about who deserves “love.” All of a sudden the question is turned over as Jesus asks not who is my neighbor, but to who may I be neighborly? Moreover, the answer reveals that the Samaritan while clearly not neighbor by the law of Lev 19:18 is the moral exemplar of the reign of God intended by Jesus.

Luke Timothy Johnson writes the following:
“More stunning still is the use to which Jesus turns the parable. The point, we learn, is not who deserves to be cared for, but rather the demand to become a person who treats everyone encountered – however frightening, alien, naked or defenseless – with compassion: “you go and do the same.” Jesus does not clarify a point of law, but transmutes law to gospel. One must take the same risks with one’s life and possessions that the Samaritan did!”

The idea that Jesus offers this unique change in the ethnic understanding of neighborliness and offers a vision of what we might call the ever expanding reach of Gospel proclamation may be news. It is Jesus himself who offers the Christian Church the ever expanding, always missional questions, “who is unlike you?” and, “what is the opportunity they offer you?” How are you going to minister to them?” Can you be as Jesus to them?” “How about as the Samaritan to them?”

We are given the opportunity to see those completely unlike ourselves as the missionary recipient of God’s never failing love and grace. We are to be neighbors, not counting the cost, but risking everything; including the risk of being thrown out of our faith ghetto for fraternizing with the enemy.

There is a great reminder here that we are to read the whole of scripture and that we are to see the fullness of God’s mission. We are invited through our faith in Jesus to be tested and to do the work Jesus has given us to do. We are to be like the Samaritan.

Can I do the same?

More radical may be to answer this question: Do I believe my inheritance of eternal life is dependant upon this work?

Some Thoughts on Colossians 1:1-14


Resources for Sunday's Epistle

We move this week to the Epistle for Sunday which is a switch from Galatians to Colosians.  In typical fashion Paul tells him that he is one sent out to proclaim the word by the Grace of God.  And, that he brings to a community in conflict a word of peace; hearkening to Jesus' own words at the resurrection.  ( I am fully aware that there is a scholarly debate over the authorship of the letter; but for the purposes of digesting its offerings, and for simplicity, I am going to refer to Paul as the author.)

This passage is about bearing fruit.  The fruit that is being born is a fruit of hope and it comes from the God's Spirit. Paul is very clear that it is the Gospel and the Spirit which bears the fruit and it does so where there is faith.

The work of the follower of Jesus is to bear fruit; by and through the grace and hope that is in us.  Furthermore that the follower is not simply a follower but like Paul is sent out in strength and with patience to do the work of God by sharing the inheritance.  What Paul has received, what the Colossians have received, is for the world  and it is to be offered to the world.  It is free and all may have it.

Underlying these words of bearing fruit, faithfulness, and inheritance is the issue that seems to be plaguing the Colossians (as it did many early Christian communities).  Do you have to follow a bunch of laws to receive God's love.  The answer is Pauline and clear. God has provided this to all and it is provided freely.  

William Loader says this about the passage:

This needs to be set against the backdrop of what is bothering the community. Some are saying that God's love is not so free, but depends on religious rites and achievements which must be performed if we are to be sure of getting past the powers which hold sway in this universe. The result can be religious preoccupation with our own destiny. We can become busy trying to justify ourselves. We can do that by performing religious rites or doing many other things "religiously". We can even make ourselves busy with overwork (even with church work!) to achieve that sense of being valued and ultimately coming through and finding a place of worth. Colossians is acclaiming a generous love which says: stop all this and believe in grace! You don't have to become religious in this way. On the contrary, you can be liberated from such religion to be free to respond to God and others and yourselves with joy!

Paul and our author is clear that the Gospel is one of generous love. This love will breed faithfulness and fruit.  But faithfulness and fruit will not beget love; it never does.  The God we believe in reaches out to us and loves us.  God is more than kind, the God we believe in is grace filled.  Like God we are to be vines laden with grace and generous love.  This vine will bear much fruit.

Some Thoughts on Amos 7:7-17


Resources for Sunday's Old Testament

When in Jerusalem our guide, The Rev. Canon John Peterson, took us to a little hillside near Tekoa. In the hill beneath a mound of rubble and centuries of pot shards was a little cave. The cave is long believed to be a small ancient Christian church site to Amos the prophet. On this hill, and the valley below, one gets an understanding of the man from Tekoa, who was a herdsman and dresser of sycamore trees. Like the fruit of the sycamore tree (which is like a date) and must be punctured in order to be dried and eaten, Amos punctures the pearly visions of the ruling class of his day.

The time in which Amos prophesied is a time of a divided kingdom of Israel. The Northern kingdom and tribes are ruled over by King Jeroboam (786-746 BCE). 

God calls Amos to invite his people to repent. His prophecies are not good for the kingdom.

The reason is the long standing problem with those who chose to follow God - we are a fickle people. We are wont to find other god's who promise us prosperity, power, and health. The religious powers of the court are no different. Whenever the kings of Israel drifted away from their loyalty to the God who freed his people out of Egypt, the prophets were raised up by God to speak a word of return. 

An important piece here is that we easily place our trust in the world and powers of the world. God can become distant and far off. When this happens, and our anxiety rises, we will give ourselves, our wealth, time, and families over to the authorities of the world around us for an economic promise of safety. 

We can easily focus upon Amos proclamation that the kingdom will soon fall because of its prostitution to these ungodly forces. But what seems more important is to wonder out loud about how Amos' prophesy might have a word for us in our own time of anxiety and desire for security?

How are the sanctuaries - institutions of our day - passing away even as they promise security with reinvestment? (v 8,9) What have they promised in the passed and fallen short in their delivery? (7ff) How has our use of violence in order to prosper our own desires brought violence and death to our shores? (v 11) How have we rejected those who continuously invite us to the grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love of God? (v 13) 

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