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.

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Proper 20C / Ordinary 25C / Pentecost +18 September 18, 2016

Quotes That Make Me Think

"Commentators routinely remark that the parable of the Dishonest (Corrupt) Manager stands among the most challenging texts in the New Testament, often regarding it as the most perplexing of Jesus' parables."

Commentary, Luke 16:1-13, Greg Carey, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2010.

"While it is naïve to read into Jesus? teaching our perceptions of the complexities of economic exploitation - we can let Jesus stay in the first century uncolonised by our insights - nevertheless the proclamation of the kingdom was meant to be good news for these poor and bring them blessing. How can you assert these things as God's priorities and not address what is going on?"

"First Thoughts on Year C Gospel Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 18, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from Textweek.com

Prayer
Let the sincerity of our worship be matched by the depth of our commitment to justice. In a world where money rules supreme, may you alone be our master, and may we find our delight in serving each other. 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 16:1-13

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

This Sunday’s lesson is directed not at the crowds who are following Jesus and not at his detractors but rather at his disciples. This is clearly a discussion with those who have already chosen to follow Jesus and are searching for an understanding of expectations and the work that lies before them.

Clarity in expectations is very important. However, I would venture to guess that most of lean on our forgiveness of such expectations more than we do live into the expectations of the reign of God. This is perhaps the reason why this Sunday’s Gospel is difficult to hear and difficult to preach.

As scholars point out there are a number of difficult issues. Luke Timothy Johnson lays before us a couple of issues to be dealt with:

1. Where does the parable end and the moral lesson begin?
2. What is the nature of the steward’s action? Did he sacrifice something in his actions or is he continuing his same old dishonest ways?
3. Is this parable connected by a loose list of moral teachings or is there one overarching theme? (LTJ, Luke, 247)

If we go back to the text and set these difficult textual and critical issues aside for a moment we might gain some clarity. So, reread the text, and lets begin again.

We are to be stewards this is clear and a perennial theme throughout Jesus’ message, especially in the Gospel of Luke. This seems simple enough.

Jesus has turned his attention from the Pharisees and scribes to his disciples. Jesus seems to imply that the trouble with his detractors is the same with this steward – they have misused what is entrusted to them: the community of God.

Jesus offers then an understanding of what his followers should be doing. They should be proactively responsible and not squander. They should be proactive in lessening the burden of their neighbors.

When we hold on to, squander, or misuse what is given to us as God’s stewards in this world then we separate ourselves from God through the misuse of “mammon.”

If we give away, loosen the burden of others, care and tend what is given to us then we build up and strengthen our relationship with God and secure our place in the reign of God.
The other day I read a headline, “The earth does not care what we do with it.” This is true in a very real sense. The earth does not have feelings and in fact will regenerate itself if we wipe out civilization through human ineptitude. However, as Christians we understand that God does care. God does have expectations of us. I know these are human words to describe our relationship with God, but they are Jesus’ words. We are given as stewards all of creation and a tremendous number of relationships. What we do with them does matter.

How we are stewards matters for us and our lives in this world. And, it matters in our lives in the world to come – this is Jesus’ message in Luke’s Gospel.

The story of the dishonest steward gives us each an opportunity to look at how we use what is given to us. How do we use creation? How do we use the Gospel? How do we use the revelation of God in Jesus Christ? How do we use our lives? How do we use our bodies? How do we use our relationships? How do we greet people who are God’s own? How do we treat one another? How do we lessen the burden of others? Or heap on the burden of others? What we say, what we write, what we spend, how we act matters to God and it matters in the reign of God.

You and I like the disciples are already confronted with the “visitation of our Lord.” We know the expectations and today we are called to make an account. Are we ready?


Some Thoughts on 1 Timothy 2:1-8


Resources for Sunday's Epistle

Our second Sunday of reading from I Timothy brings us to the topic of worship: "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings."  He says these are to be made for everyone and offers a brief list. Our own Episcopal form of public prayers takes this very ancient model into consideration as it to offers prayers for leaders of church and state, and every kind of condition.

For Paul, and rooted deep in our own liturgical practice, there is no separate world and church world.  Everything is unified and God is Lord of all.  Interesting too is the notion that Paul and other Christians of his era did not have a symbolic world view as developed as our own Western one; nor did he believe that the world was to be changed by our proclamation in quite the same way we Western Christians think today.  (Luke Timothy Johnson, I Timothy, 194ff)  He did believe though that God was Lord of all and that while you pray for kings and emperors, they are not God.

He writes, "For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human,who gave himself a ransom for all—this was attested at the right time."

We are also to be praying for all people.  We do this because we believe int he mission of Christ Jesus. We believe that we are to pray for all people as Paul asked us do do.  God wants and desires that all people be saved and embraced by Christ, this is our prayer for them.  This is an important notion in Pauline theology because Paul is making it clear that the God is not a mere tribal God. This God is not one God among many.  This is not a God of a people. This is God, the God of all people.  Who wishes to offer grace to all people.  There is no body left out of this vision.  God is the God of all writes Paul    So Paul says that this is what he is to offer, this is the Gospel.  God in Christ Jesus loves all.  (LTJ, Timothy, 197)  He writes, "For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument."

This Good News is news for everyone, every family, every nation, and every people.  It is news because we are God's creatures, the creation of his own hand. We are his people. We are a global people of God.  And, God's salvation and salvific act is for all of us.  Sometimes I fear we get in the practice of judging who God has come to save and who God has not come to save. Sometimes I think we let ourselves off the hook regarding those we find unlovable, undeserving, and unprepared.  This is not the kind of Good News Paul is talking about and it is not the Good News of Christ Jesus.  Christ came to save us all, he is friend of sinner, and he is the challenger to the righteous.  He is all embracing and all loving.  What would a church be like if we not only prayed this Good News but treated everyone who walks through our doors, who we meet, as God's possession...as God's beloved...as one of God's people?

Some Thoughts on Jeremiah 8:18-9:1


We continue reading in the book of Jeremiah. A little historical update for this week's lesson. Scholars believe that Jeremiah is writing in the midst of the great crumbling of Israel's empire. The north and the south alike have made dubious alliances with foreign powers and now are paying the price as weakened leadership fall prey to invading armies. You will remember that God has promised that he will not stay the hands of the invaders because of the leadership and people's lack of faith. This has been highlighted in Jeremiah through the past few weeks as he has hinted at the people's return to foreign gods - different than the God who brought them to this promised land and garden.

Jeremiah truly weeps at the prospect of the destruction that is occurring:
18 My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick. 19 Hark, the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land: “Is the Lord not in Zion? Is her King not in her?” (“Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their foreign idols?”) 20 “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” 21 For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. 22 Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? 
9 O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!
Carl Jung believed that suffering and meaning and life are intertwined. He wrote in his autobiography:
"The world into which we are born is brutal and cruel, and at the same time one of divine beauty... Which element we think outweighs the other, whether meaninglessness or meaning, is a matter of temperament. If meaninglessness were absolutely preponderant, the meaningfulness of life would vanish to an increasing degree with each step in our development. But that is—or seems to me—not the case. Probably as in all metaphysical questions, both are true: Life is—or has—meaning and meaninglessness. I cherish the anxious hope that meaning will preponderate and will the battle.” From: Memories, Dreams, and Reflections by Carl Jung.

Jeremiah seeks this meaning: "For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?" Suffering is real and the battle is real. The world is brutal and cruel. Some religions believe that such suffering is simply a human imagination or matter of perspective. Christianity with its ancient roots in Judaism, shared with Islam, recognizes in the Abrahamic faith the fact that human suffering in all times and in all places is real. Yet there is meaning in the suffering. 

Key seems to me to be rooted in the notion that suffering is brought about by seeking the powers and authorities of this world. It is about false pieties and religion that empowers and ingratiates the religious leaders. When this happens, and the leaders forget their responsibility to the people, everyone will suffer.

While our passage today is mired in the pain and suffering of a people, it points forward to a new birth. God is in some way the absent landowner, and yet filled with heart ache and tears as he sees his people's unfaithfulness and their own calamity. 

Thankfully we know the rest of the story. We know that part of what is also here is God's presence in this suffering. The people and their lack of faith, their seeking power through political alliances, and the use of religion for the worldly gain of authority and power does not remove God's love or desire for hope and balm for the people. 

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