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.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Proper 19C / Ordinary 24C / Pentecost +17 September 11, 2016

Quotes That Make Me Think

"I think that these parables can be read as jokes about God in the sense that what they are essentially about is the outlandishness of God who does impossible things with impossible people."

"One Lost Sheep," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.

"The main verb in the second conclusion (v. 10) is ginetai a present = "There is". So, when a sinner repents, at that moment there is joy in heaven. Will there be joy on earth, then seems to be Jesus' question."

Exegetical Notes by Brian Stoffregen at CrossMarks Christian Resources.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from

So in Jesus you have come searching. May we never forget how much we are loved. May we never refuse to love others as much.  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 15:1-32

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

I like this translation of the last words of the parable: "Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It is necessary to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

We find Jesus again in the midst of preaching the lost and the found; this time using what has become one of the most popular parables from the New Testament.

I find Jesus’ words in verse 32 to be paramount. The words are left out of many translations but essential to the text: “It was necessary…” According to Luke Timothy Johnson (Luke, 239) this verse begins with these words. This is the literal translation. Bringing all of the stories of the past few weeks together in the mind of the reader and listener, Jesus is saying, “It was necessary.”

“The first part of this is pure Gospel,” says Luke Timothy Johnson, “…the lost are being found, the dead rising, the sinners are repenting.” (242) The mood quickly shifts as the reader becomes aware that the established religion of the day are not eager to accept the message of good news. It is clear that they (the powers) understand their faith as a “slavery” to God and religion. They resent grace being offered on the boundaries of the institution to those who do not follow the law as they do.  Their sentiments are to be found in the loyal son in our parable.

Many times we read the passage about those left outside the banquet as judgmental and as mean. But the passage is clear, God has offered, God has gone out of his way to invite and find and heal, God welcomes them. All are invited.  The good son and the bad son are to sit at table together.  And, who those are shall be in the telling and the listening. One possible group who is not ready to be at table with the sinner may in fact be the loyal sons of Abraham.  Those religious who have decided to shut this miracle working, prophetic, and powerful new king of the reign of God out, have instead kept themselves from enjoying the banquet feast.

Again, our passage which is filled with the good news, challenges us to see where is it that we in keeping others outside of the kingdom, are instead keeping ourselves from rejoicing. After all, don’t we see that “It is necessary.”  Is it possible we have taken the place of the good son; we are the good sons of today.

I think this week especially about our evangelism efforts and our efforts of welcoming newcomers to our church. How do we do the Gospel work without getting stuck like the son who has worked so hard? Can we receive the grace of God, and then turn to our neighbor who has not "earned it" in our eyes and offer grace?  That is truly hard work.

I think sometimes I am so relieved to receive the good news and the grace of God that I want to keep it all for myself, it as if it were to scarce and precious to share. I love being the center of God’s love and grace. Most of all, I like to pretend that I have earned it.

But this passage like the others before it challenge me to understand that there is more than enough grace for everyone. By the grace of God go I, the same grace is given to all, and wouldn't it be beautiful if we could all walk together into the banquet hall hand in hand; the good son and the bad son. And, when asked, "Which is which?" We might reply: "I do not remember."

I was lost but am found. I was dead but now I am alive. Now, I am invited to be the shepherd, the woman, and the father. More often than not I think we find ourselves, in our missionary context and our foreign culture, to be the faithful son who stayed home and worked. It is difficult to see that it is necessary. It is. It is necessary that we celebrate because God has brought us all together and those who were lost have been found.

Some Thoughts on 1 Timothy 1:12-17

Resources for Sunday's Epistle

As we have seen in a few of Paul's letters his thanksgiving always begins to pull out strands of the letter's arguments.  The letter to Timothy is no different.  

Paul begins by telling the reader(s) that he was given grace by Christ Jesus and strengthened.  God offered this grace to Paul even thought he was a "blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence." God was merciful, and primarily so because he had not yet received the Gospel.  He acted "ignorantly and in unbelief."  Paul then offers a phrase Episcopalians include as part of the "comfortable words" in our liturgy.  Paul says, "The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."  

What Paul will ultimately be arguing is that he himself was an outrageous example of how the law does not bring righteousness.  He did not understand, grace, mercy, and God's love; which is the Christ's law as well as the disciple's response. (Luke Timothy Johnson, 1 & 2 Timothy, 182) Instead, Paul will explain that it was rage and murder that the law drove him to undertake.  Christ Jesus offered change and transformation. 

This is a wonderful passage to read along with the Good Samaritan.  Luke Timothy Johnson writes these words:  "How God worked in Paul is the model for how God works in all believers.  The final words of the thanksgiving remind readers by means of a doxology that no human norm or performance, but solely the "only God," can shape a life leading to "eternal life."  (Ibid, 183)  

How quickly we humans have rushed to become as Paul prior to his conversion; I am struck with how important it is to hear from someone who has received grace and been transformed.

Some Thoughts on Jeremiah 4:11-28

The prophet confronts the people on their lack of response and returning to the Lord. God is clear that he will not stop the Babylonian's from their invasion. 

Jeremiah prophesies:
11At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse— 12a wind too strong for that. Now it is I who speak in judgment against them. 13Look! He comes up like clouds, his chariots like the whirlwind; his horses are swifter than eagles— woe to us, for we are ruined! 14O Jerusalem, wash your heart clean of wickedness so that you may be saved. How long shall your evil schemes lodge within you? 15For a voice declares from Dan and proclaims disaster from Mount Ephraim. 16Tell the nations, “Here they are!” Proclaim against Jerusalem, “Besiegers come from a distant land; they shout against the cities of Judah. 17They have closed in around her like watchers of a field, because she has rebelled against me, says the Lord. 18Your ways and your doings have brought this upon you. This is your doom; how bitter it is! It has reached your very heart.”
The people are awash in false prophecy and the religious leaders of the kingdom are bankrupt spiritually.  God's heart breaks and he weeps and Jeremiah shares in his heart breaking:
19My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh, the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent; for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. 20Disaster overtakes disaster, the whole land is laid waste. Suddenly my tents are destroyed, my curtains in a moment.21How long must I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet?22“For my people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good."
God is clear through Jeremiah's words that the reality is that though the conquerers will bring death and destruction God will birth out a new transformed people. In their dying shall also be their birth as a new and faithful nation.

I am reminded of the lesson from John 12:24, "Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life." What is true in the prophecy foretelling the death and resurrection of Jesus is true too for the faithful people of Israel is true for us.

The great paradox of the Gospel is that in death there is life. In loss is renewal and discovery. This is the ancient truth of our ancient faith ancestors and it is true for us as well.

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