Finding the Lessons

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Sunday, September 25, 2016

All Saints C November 1, 2016

Many Congregations Will Transfer All Saints to Sunday this Week; So here is your bonus Hitchhiking for All Saints

A Good Passage to Begin With:
Ecclesiasticus 44:1-10,13-14

44Let us now sing the praises of famous men,
our ancestors in their generations.
2 The Lord apportioned to them* great glory,
his majesty from the beginning.
3 There were those who ruled in their kingdoms,
and made a name for themselves by their valour;
those who gave counsel because they were intelligent;
those who spoke in prophetic oracles;
4 those who led the people by their counsels
and by their knowledge of the people’s lore;
they were wise in their words of instruction;
5 those who composed musical tunes,
or put verses in writing;
6 rich men endowed with resources,
living peacefully in their homes—
7 all these were honoured in their generations,
and were the pride of their times.
8 Some of them have left behind a name,
so that others declare their praise.
9 But of others there is no memory;
they have perished as though they had never existed;
they have become as though they had never been born,
they and their children after them.
10 But these also were godly men,
whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten;
13 Their offspring will continue for ever,
and their glory will never be blotted out.
14 Their bodies are buried in peace,
but their name lives on generation after generation.
Quotes That Make Me Think

"Saints are "holy ones" (Greek: hagioi), the 'blessed of God' (Greek:makarioi: Luke 6:20-22). But who are they really?"

Commentary, Luke 6:20-31, David Tiede, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2010.

"This is a great text to preach as a high calling to the character of Christian community. Preaching it as pre-conditions for being resurrected - that would be a mistake. Preaching it as a calling to live as those who have been raised from the dead - that would be a blessing."

Holy Textures, Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, Luke 6:20-31, David Ewart, 2010.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from Textweek.com

Prayer
As one poor in spirit and gentle of heart, your Son, O God, came to live among us, that we might hear the charter of your kingdom and see those words made flesh in the mercy and peace  with which he faced insult and persecution.  As we celebrate the witness of all the saints whose lies were shaped by the Beatitudes form us according to Christ's teaching and their example, that, having shared in the communion of the saints on earth, we might take our place among them in the joy of 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 7:11-17

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

I don't normally do this, but this week I want to do a bit of comparison between the synoptic Beatitudes in Matthew and Luke. Let me begin with a bit about Matthew's version:

As we look at Jesus’ ministry, it is important to see that there is a framework at work in Matthew. One that is out of sync with our current reading cycle of Luke, so be aware of shifting gears as you take on the All Saints' Day lessons. In these first chapters of the Gospel of Matthew we see that the individuals who come in contact with Jesus do not have to do anything, Jesus is not teaching about discipleship, he is not charging them to reform the religion of the time, and he is simply giving of himself. He is intentionally offering himself to those around him. The people in the first chapters of Matthew and in the Sermon on the Mount receive Jesus; this is the primary action taking place between those following and the Messiah himself.

Jesus is giving of himself to others.

The Sermon On the Mount begins in Chapter 4.25 and the introduction runs through 5.1. We are given the scenery, which is the mountain beyond the Jordan (previous verse). This continues to develop an Exodus typology which is the foundation of Matthew’s interpretive themes in these early chapters. It follows clearly when one thinks of the passages leading up to this moment: the flight from Egypt, baptism and now the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew’s Gospel the first five chapters parallel the Exodus story. So, Jesus now arrives at the mountain where the law was given.

The structure of the following verses are beautiful and I offer them here so you can see how they play themselves out in a literary fashion (5.3-5.10).

5.3 Inclusive Voice: Theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
5.10 Inclusive Voice: Theirs is the kingdom of heaven
5.4 Divine Passive Voice: They shall be comforted
5.9 Divine Passive Voice: They shall be called sons of God
5.5 Future Active Voice with Object: They shall inherit the earth
5.8 Future Middle Voice with Object: They shall see God
5.6 Divine Passive Voice: They shall be satisfied
5.7 Divine Passive Voice: They shall have mercy
Matthew uses these formulas and structures throughout the Gospel.

Scholars tell us that the classical Greek translation illustrates the pains that Matthew took as he rewrote Luke’s and Q’s Beatitudes to create the parallels we see. He also writes so carefully that when he is finished, there are exactly 36 words in each section of the Beatitudes (5.3-5.6 and 5.7-510). This combined with the parallels highlight the two sections that must have been meaningful to the church at Antioch (comprised of those who have fled persecution).

5.3ff describes the persecuted state of the followers of Jesus
5.7ff describes the ethical qualities of the followers of Jesus that will lead to persecution

The Beatitudes are blessings, not requirements. The teachings therefore are words of grace. In the initial teachings of Jesus’ ministry, healing comes before imperative statements, here Jesus preaches that grace comes before requirements and commandments. This is a perennial Christian teaching: one must receive first before service.

The difficulties required of followers of Jesus presuppose God’s mercy and prior saving activity.

The Beatitudes are clear that the kingdom of God brings comfort, a permanent inheritance, true satisfaction and mercy, a vision of God and divine son-ship. This may be Matthew’s most important foundation stone within the salvation story. We are given, through grace, our freedom to follow. We are like the Israelites and sons and daughters of Abraham, delivered so we may follow and work on behalf of God.

The Beatitudes also are prophetic as in the passage from Isaiah 61.1. Jesus is clearly the anointed one. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah, bringing Good News to those in need. Furthermore, the words of Jesus are the result of the prophecy and so they set him apart from all other teachers.

The beatitudes then are also words which not only promise Grace to the follower, they fulfill the prophetic words of the old message from Isaiah: Jesus was meek (11.29; 21.5), Jesus mourned (26.36-46), Jesus was righteous and fulfilled all righteousness (3.15; 27.4, 19), Jesus showed mercy (9.27; 15.22; 17.15; 20.30-1), Jesus was persecuted and reproached (26-7). The beatitudes are illustrated and brought to life in Jesus’ ministry, they are signs that he stands in a long line of prophets offering comfort to God’s people, and he is also clearly the suffering servant who epitomizes the beatitudes themselves. Origen wrote that Jesus is offering this grace he fulfills and embodies his own words and thereby becomes the model to be imitated.

The Beatitudes are words of proclamation. Are we in a place where we can articulate Jesus’ story and life as a fulfillment of God’s promises to his people?

The Beatitudes are words of mercy. Are we in a place where we can hear Jesus’ words for us? Have we allowed ourselves to be saved before we begin to work on Jesus’ behalf?

The Beatitudes are words of care for the poor. Are we in a place where we can hear Jesus’ special concern for those who are oppressed in the system of life? Are we ready to follow him into the world to deliver his people imitating the work of Moses and Jesus?

So lets turn to Luke now and see what the Gospel offers:  Luke’s version of the Beatitudes is quite different. While clearly laying out the boundaries of those who belong within the reign of God Jesus then turns to charge those who follow in the working of God’s will in their lives and in their discipleship.
Love your enemies
Do good to those who hate you
Bless those who curse you
Pray for those who abuse you
If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt

Give to everyone who begs from you if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

These are the standards of our live in Jesus Christ. Many of us pray for God’s will in our lives, here it is.

Luke Timothy Johnson says, “Ultimately, of course, Luke grounds this morality in the covenantal attitudes and actions of God. As God is kind toward all creatures, even those who are not themselves kind, even wicked, so are these disciples to be. The reward is itself the reality of being of God toward the world.” (LTJ, Luke, 112)

We blessed in so many ways. One of those ways is the unequivocal invitation to be members of God’s creation and inheritors of his reign. This is our baptismal promise. We cannot read this without Matthew’s own story of it residing deep within the ancient history of the Israelites planted firmly within our current mission context. We are also blessed because God does not simply invite us but beckons us to join him in the garden as partners in the stewardship of his reign. You and I receive the blessing of God for the purpose of blessing the world through our mission and ministry.

Some Thoughts on Ephesians 1:11-23


Resources for Sunday's Epistle

Our passage is a kind of blessing or beginning for the whole text; within it is a brief summary of Ephesians.  Many scholarly articles and texts spend a great deal of time using this blessing section as a tool for touching on the themes of the letter.  Our context though is in the midst of the celebration of All Saints and it is to that particular message that I think we should try and listen as we prepare for preaching.

The first piece of the passage is not news to those who read a great deal of Paul.  Paul is clear our inheritance (Jew or Greek) is always obtained by and through the work of God.  Moreover, that the purpose of our receiving such an inheritance is the praise and glory of God.
20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things
God's grace is abundant and always comes first and it is our response then that marks us outwardly as Christ's own, even though that claim is assured only by the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  We were "marked" and "sealed"; words that echo even today in our baptismal liturgies.

Even now, Paul reminds us, we are being redeemed.  Such a faith is what Paul speaks to in verse 15:  "I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints..."  - mark of the outward claim God has on our hearts.  Love for others is key to our ministry and our mission; it is the mark by which we are known as Christ's own forever.

Paul then urges that the church in Ephesus be filled with this Holy Spirit and that the "eyes of your heart" be enlightened so that they may see clearly what is God's hope.  This hope is nothing less than a) that all creation praises God; b) that all people are drawn to God for this purpose.  This is the richness of the witness born by the saints who believe and have lived and are living accordingly.

Paul believed that a Christian, a follower of Jesus, would live such a life that others in witnessing the living out of faith would then turn to God and receive the salvation.  He is very clear that people don't save other people, nor do they save themselves.  This is once and always God's work.  Nevertheless, the Christian who lives out the saintly life is one who lives life for God's glory so that they might join the rag tag group and be saved by God themselves. (I Cor 7.16; I Cor 10:31-33)

God is even now saving us.  Paul's invitation is to live the saintly life by acting as a people who are saved and that such action is marked by love of neighbor just as the love of God is the saving power.


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