Finding the Lessons

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

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Proper 21C / Ordinary 26C / Pentecost +19 September 25, 2016

Quotes That Make Me Think

"How far may we push a parable? Should we regard parables as helpful fictions that open our imaginations to new possibilities, or should we approach them as condensed pedagogical vehicles designed to carry specific teachings?"

Commentary, Luke 16:19-31, Greg Carey, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2010.

"Nothing quite like a sermon about a rich guy going to hell just before the fall Stewardship campaign kicks off, is there? Seriously, though, the clarity of today's Gospel reading offers a stark contrast to the ambiguous, even confusing lection of last week. But what, precisely, is this passage clear about?"

"In God We Trust: God & Money, Pt. 2," David Lose, Working Preacher, 2010.

"A reversal at the outset of the story is that the beggar is given a name and the rich man is not. That single fact ought to alert us that the story we are about to hear is going have surprises in it."

Holy Textures, Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, Luke 16:19-31, David Ewart, 2010.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from Textweek.com

Prayer
To the poor man of the parable, O God, your Son gave the name Lazarus, while the rich man’s only identity begins and ends with his wealth. Do justice for all who are oppressed. Put an end to humanity’s unbridled thoughtlessness. Let us cling to your word in Moses, the prophets and the gospels, so that we may be convinced that Christ is risen from the dead and be welcomed by you into your kingdom.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 16:19-31

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

I cannot begin my reflection upon the story of Lazarus without pointing out the several verses that begin this pericope; without which I believe the context may indeed be lost.

Luke tells us that the “Pharisees were money lovers.” They were disdainful of Jesus and of his teachings about wealth and
stewardship. Jesus tells them that while they may justify their lives and manner of living in front of the people that God knows their hearts. No matter how society treats the privileged - God will see that they truly serve wealth and not God alone. Jesus also is clear that the reign of God, the kingdom, is now being proclaimed and all are being urged to enter it. Jesus then gives the words on divorce and how in God’s eyes it is adultery.

Scholars point out that “idolatry, money, and divorce are joined in the law by the term bdelygma.” (Luke Timothy Johnson, Luke, 255) The word is translated from Greek into English with the meaning abomination, or abuse. Fornication is added to the list in the Qumran writings. (LTJ, 255) Jesus brings us all up short reminding us with these words of the singular focus upon God that is called for in the work of discipleship and how we cannot pretend piety when we also live a life of abuse.

I am not going to enter into the debate between Palagian and Augustine on the responsibility or depravity of human beings though this passage clearly touches on this theological theme. Nevertheless, these first words of the passage tell us that Jesus understands that his followers are to enter into virtuous living. The reign of God has a particular life that is lived and that life is one focused upon God. Those who reject the prophet will in turn be rejected by God.

I want to now remind us that Jesus is clear that John’s prophetic Gospel which begins with repentance and turning to the Lord are essential. Jesus says in this passage “the law and the prophets continue through John.” Luke Timothy Johnson believes that Jesus in the polemical speech may be challenging those who listen, and may be rhetorically asking, “Can those who love wealth even hear the law, the prophets, and the proclamation of the Gospel?” (255)

The way in which we might read the parable now of Lazarus is through the lens of these polemical teachings about life lived in the reign of God. It is in fact a teaching which illustrates the beatitudes themselves.

6:20 "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 "Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. "Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 "Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. 24 "But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 "Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger. "Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 "Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

The blessings and the woes are clearly illustrated in the characters of Lazarus and the wealthy man.

The parable continues past the result of lives lived and rewards received in Heaven. The rich man still wants Lazarus to serve him to serve his brothers. We then discover that the rich man was more than wealthy he was a hard hearted man for he did not pay any attention to Lazarus in their life together. Luke Timothy Johnson reminds us of the law laid out in the Talmud: “Whoever turns away his eyes from one who appeals for charity is considered as if he were serving idols.” (256).

I have over time heard a lot of sermons on this passage. Most of them shy away from the issue of rejection. Jesus is clear though if one rejects God in this life, if one rejects living in the reign of God in this life, if one rejects the work of the reign of God in this life one will be rejected in the life to come.

In some way I want to chart a clear path for the Christian response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are charged to live a virtuous life. We humans have a very difficult life living such a life devoted to others and to God. It is natural for us to be selfish and to seek our own desires over the desires of others. Yet we are in the end also responsible for our life and our living.

I am convinced that how we live our lives today affects how we live our lives in the reign of God (realized in this world and in the age to come). The blessing of the cross and the resurrection is not our free ticket out of jail, but rather the removal of the stumbling block of sin that we may serve others and God in the name of Jesus Christ. We are to live a glorious life of caring and service. This is the greatest narrative to be told, and the living of the tale is what will ultimately be what attracts others into relationship with Jesus Christ.

Like the Pharisees we must recognize and name all that separates us from the love of God, claim our own abominations and the chasm we have dug for ourselves. After the repentance of John is undertaken in response to the message of Christ then we must realize the life we have been given is for living. We must live our lives in Christ and live them for the Lazarus dwelling at our own city gate..

Now that you have accepted your redemption and promised to live a life of Christ open your eyes to those sitting at the gates around you. See their faces. Know their names. Change their lives. We are to do nothing less than bring into this world the reign of God that the Lazarus at our gates may begin life in the bosom of Abraham today.


Some Thoughts on I Timothy 6:6-19


Resources for Sunday's Epistle

In typical liturgical style we have skipped great portions of Paul's letter and now we draw to the end of the letter.  We get here to the meat of the call for reform from Paul.  He directly engages the Ephesian community on the topic of their wealth.

Paul says, "...those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains."

Paul offers a different view of the God follower.  The God follower pursue the following: "pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness."  The followers of God "Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses."  This is the difference between those who follow Jesus and those who follow money.

Paul of course in Timothy is talking about the false teachers. So, this passage is not simply about the follower of God in general.  It is mostly about the reality of the religious teachers who are teaching a false doctrine and trying to use it to gain wealth.  For Paul this is the most untenable and sinful situation.

This particular passage is directly focused not on the individual in the pew but rather the one in the pulpit! So...beware preaching to your people about how they use their wealth and remember that this passage is mostly directed at the religious practitioner.  This passage though bridges Paul's writing against the false teachers and his positive encouragement.  So, let us not stop at the part which raises a judgmental eye, let us instead continue on.

Paul says God gives life to all things.  Christ Jesus modeled how to confess the truth.  And these two things already dwell in the religious practitioner. Paul is saying you are made by God and you yourself bear witness to his truth.  God is light and and lord of all.  Your calling is to face bravely the rich.  You are to inspire them to set their hope on God "who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment."  Inspire the rich in your midst, "to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share."  Preach these things and tell them that they are living in the realm of God, they are living upon the foundation of the reign of God.  Moreover when they live in this manner they will have life and have it abundantly.

What I find interesting is that Paul, while clear about the sinfulness/brokenness of the person who is wealthy and seeks their security and hope on wealth, he does not say to shame them.  Instead he urges inspiration. He urges face your people and invite them to do good work, to be know by their good works, to be generous, and share what they have.  These are the marks of the follower of God.  These are the marks that reveal us as followers of God.


Some Thoughts on Jeremiah 32:1-15


Resources for Sunday's Old Testament

Over the last month we have been preparing for the invasion. Nebuchadnezzar II into Judah and the Egyptian armies into the south. A puppet ruler is placed in power - Zedekiah. 

Jeremiah is imprisoned as a prophet in the line of Anathoth and as a deserter. He attempts to go home without luck and finds himself imprisoned.

And, while he is in under guard he takes the opportunity to purchase some land in his home town.

What is the meaning of all of this? Are these simply little factoids about his life and the crazy workings of kings and powers that swirl around as the plans of men are brought to their inevitable end in the triumph of Israel's enemies?

Perhaps the purchase of the land is itself an outward and visible sign that even as the destruction of the kingdoms is at hand, as was prophesied in last week's lesson, God is at work renewing the garden of Israel.

As Garrett Galvin, Old Testament professor and OSM at the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif., writes:
In the future just as God will watch over building and planting, God will also watch over a time when “all shall die for their own sins.” Jeremiah announces a freedom that takes us right back to the Garden of Eden. Everyone can make the same choice as Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or not. We find here a reversal of the downward spiral of sin initiated in the primeval history of Genesis. 
Commentators have noted the eschatological nature of the renewal found in the new covenant of verses 31-34. This eschatology can easily be seen as conditioned by the goodness of creation found at the beginning of Genesis. Protology is eschatology and eschatology is protology. Earlier in this chapter, Jeremiah has announced that God “has created a new thing on the earth” (Jeremiah 31:22). Now we hear of a new covenant in verse 31. The Bible invokes the theme of newness repeatedly in another important eschatological book: Revelation (see 21:1, 2, 5). Jeremiah invokes God’s goodness to Israel in the exodus from Egypt, but not even this goodness is enough to understand what God will do. We can easily imagine this new covenant initiating a new beginning like after the flood and Noah’s ark.

Frank M. Yamada, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at McCormick Theological Seminary, offers that our witness to the land deal is actually not only a witness to legal purpose, but a witness to the purposes of God being set into place even as the hoard is at the gate. This is a tangible sign of the promise Galvin speaks of and Jeremiah prophesies.

The detail in verses 16--25 has a meaningful function in this text. It not only shows the complete extent to which Jeremiah has fulfilled the instruction of the LORD--a perfect obedience. Jeremiah's meticulous fulfillment of this command also points to the prophet's and God's careful attention to a future that is still very distant and hard to see given the current circumstances. This hope is as certain as the Babylonian armies that are at the gate. Thus, the observers of this transaction are not there simply to verify the purchase of land. They are witnesses to the future that the LORD has announced through Jeremiah's prophetic action.

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