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.

Enjoy.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Epiphany 7A February 19, 2017

Quotes That Make Me Think


"You see the lines in their faces and the way they walk when they're tired. You see who their husbands and wives are, maybe. You see where they're vulnerable. You see where they're scared. Seeing what is hateful about them, you may catch a glimpse also of where the hatefulness comes from. Seeing the hurt they cause you, you may see also the hurt they cause themselves. You're still light-years away from loving them, to be sure, but at least you see how they are human even as you are human..."

"Enemy," Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark.


"Walter Wink makes the case: 

"that antistenai has to do with violence. The word is formed from anti--"against"--and stenai--"to stand." Literally, the word means "stand against" or "withstand." Wink notes its repeated use in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) as a word for "warfare." Likewise, it appears in Ephesians in a context of warfare (6:13). Josephus, writing in the time of Jesus, continually uses antistenai to mean armed struggle... Therefore, the sentence should be translated: "Do not violently resist the evil one."

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from Textweek.com

Prayer

Lift from our hearts the burden of hatred, and drive all resentment far from our lives; so that, loving not only our neighbors but even our enemies, we may, by your grace, be perfect, even as you are perfect. 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 A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.


Some Thoughts on Matthew 5:36-48

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

As last week we are continuing our passage from the sermon on the mount wherein Jesus uses the phrase, "You have heard that it was said...." 

Last week we worked on lust, marriage, and swearing (oath taking). This week we are presented with two more. They are offered as examples of how Jesus "came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it."

This is an important theme within the whole of Matthew's Gospel as Jesus is the righteous one and those who claim to be his followers are to be righteous still. We might recall that last week I talked about how Jesus is in these reflections being very pointed about his comments and is clearly making them with the idea that one's commitment to these principles is a necessary component to one's response to the covenant God has with all of creation and with us specifically as creatures.

The last two antithetical teachings have to do with violence and with loving neighbor. 

Jesus is clearly calling those who would follow him and desire to fulfill all righteousness must refrain from violence; in fact choose intentionally not to enact violence upon one another. Specifically not to retaliate or seek to revenge violence with violence. 

What would a world be like if we were able to create a culture wherein people lived whole lives without physical violence being done to them. I think as Christians and as people who live in a world of the Internet and a world with an understanding of psychology we must broaden Jesus' imperative to say that we as Christians are called, challenged, to live a life without being violent in our words (written or spoken), in our emails, videos, conversations, treatment of others, etc. The world would be a very different place today if Christians took this to heart. I imagine the world would be transformed if we simply tempered in some measure the violence we perpetrate and perpetuate on others. 

I don't believe that Jesus is saying don't stand against the oppressor, but he is saying don't wound or kill him. In fact do not wound or kill his/her character. 

This passage again ties into the notion that the law itself was based upon how one reacts to another.  You do this thing so I do this thing..type of approach.  Jesus has reoriented the conversation. He says God is impartial with his love and forgiveness to you.  How will you respond?  A follower of Jesus and of God is to respond with the same impartiality - regardless of what the other person does.  Jesus has reversed the work of the law, not only fulfilling it but raising it to a higher quality.  This higher demand of the law - your response to God's action - is one that was purchased upon the cross of Christ when he himself stood against all evil, all sin, and all brokenness - holding it tightly into the grave where by he left it and rose on the third day.  His trampling of the law and death and is invitation to respond is supposed to be the hallmark of our Church's mission.

Christian community today is very complicated and the reality is that most congregations have been involved in violent heart rending conflict in the past decade.The congregational study called FACTS reports: 86% of congregations had conflict in the last five years. 32% of churches reported very serious conflict. Of congregations that had serious conflict, that conflict: is ongoing in 6%; remains, but is no longer serious in 28%; was resolved with no negative consequences in 26%; was resolved with some negative consequences in 40%.The report says that the following are the primary reasons for conflict in a congregation: priest’s leadership style (17% so report); money/finances/budget (11%); priest’s personal behavior (11%); who makes a decision (10%); member’s personal behavior (7%); how worship is conducted (6%); program/mission priorities (5%); and for theology (4%).

From what I gather these statistics are not unique to Episcopal congregations alone. I believe one can make a case that based upon this statistic most congregations have not paid much attention to this passage of scripture at all! 

One might also say this may very well be one of the most important passages to preach!I believe that if we as Christians and as Christian communities do not truly try to work on this area regarding loving our brothers and sisters, our enemies and our neighbors unconditionally as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ does then we will perpetually live within the false expectation that people will want to become members of the community of Jesus Christ; a community which promises love and kindness, gentleness and hope.

Some Thoughts on I Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23


Resources for Sunday's Epistle

"The buzz of self-promotion and the satisfaction at increased recruitment, even in the name of Jesus, can so easily go awry."

"First Thoughts on Year A Epistle Passages in the Lectionary: Epiphany 7, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

"Corinth is holy because God's spirit dwells in it. Holiness is not Corinth's possession. It is a gift that has been given to it by Christ."

Commentary, 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23, Mark Tranvik, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2011.

Paul begins this passage with a metaphor of building.  He points out that he laid a foundation - which is Christ and not himself.  All others will have to chose how they build for you always want to build on Christ and Christs work and not your own.  This of course has been the problem with those other teachers in the Corinthian community.

You also do not need to worry about the judgment for these preachers who build up other things than Christ and Christ's building.  God will do that work.  He writes:
"Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done."
You are God's temple of the Holy Spirit.  So whatever you put on to hide yourself or build up to look like something else - God will burn that way. God will in the end have you as his temple.

One way that you will know if you are building up a different building than what God has purposed is if you are dividing your self from others. Are you separating yourself out?  Are you separating others from God? Are you the one doing the judging? Are you the one who is using fancy arguments and following a leader who takes you out of the community? If you are doing those things then you are following the wrong leader. You are in fact not building up the temple but tearing it down.

Godly leaders will want to help you - the real you - the internal you - become God's vessel - God's temple.  Don't boast on the leader - boast on Christ and Christ's work in your heart!

I imagine that the reality is that most of us are more interested in our way, our language, our view, our leader, our group, our team.  My intuition tells me this is where we most often begin and then expand to God and pull God down on our side.  Paul is reminding Corinth - This is not how God works.


Some Thoughts on Leviticus 19:1-18



A missionary Church knows the basics of its faith. Following Jesus in the community of the Episcopal Church means that we work on being good disciples. We need to be able to articulate our faith. As a church, we need to be forming followers of Jesus who can articulate the essential visionary nature of who we are as Episcopalians.

Episcopalians, for instance, engage in the work of praying the Ten Commandments. We do it in worship, and we even have a teaching guide in the Book of Common Prayer (page 847). When was the last time you picked up the Book of Common Prayer and read the Commandments and our Episcopal understanding of their purpose in guiding our pilgrimage through life? The Ten Commandments are some of the first discipleship instructions in our catechism—a guide to faith. The Commandments remind us of God’s desire for us in our relationship with God and with others.

Episcopalians understand that we trust God, and we bring others to know him. We put nothing in the place of God. We show God respect in our words and in our actions and in the results of our actions. We are faithful in worship, prayer, and study. To the other we are to be faithful as well—treating our neighbors with love as we love God and love ourselves; to love, honor, and help our parents and family; to honor those in authority, and to meet their just demands. We, as Episcopalians, are to show respect for the life God has given us; to work and pray for peace; to bear no malice, prejudice, or hatred in our hearts; and to be kind to all the creatures of God. We are to use our bodily desires as God intended for the mutual building up of the family of God. We are to be honest and fair in our dealings; to seek justice, freedom, and the necessities of life for all people; and to use our talents and possessions as ones who must answer for them to God. We are to speak the truth and not mislead others by our silence. We are to resist temptations to envy, greed, and jealousy; to rejoice in other people's gifts and graces; and to do our duty for the love of God, who has called us into fellowship with him.

Continuing this faithful work with God and on behalf of God is what it means in part to follow in our apostolic teaching, to continue the work of a covenant community. We, as Episcopalians, hold ourselves accountable to this vision of relationship with God and with one another. We believe we hold up our lives to this image of our being, word, and deed and can see clearly where we fall short of the hope God has in us and so we repent. We return to God.

As Episcopalians, we know that baptism does not make us perfect. We know that we remain sinful and sinning people. That is what we Episcopalians own—that we too often follow our own will and not God’s. This really messes up our relationship with God and with other people. We also have managed to make a real mess of God’s creation.

We recognize we cannot help but mess up our relationship with God and others, so we understand that we are in need of salvation. We are set free to do the work of creating a community of reconciliation. We know as Episcopalians, we say in our Eucharistic prayers, that God has tried to call us back to God . . . but not yet. It is under this weight of sin that God chooses to enter the world. God comes as the Messiah to set us free from the power of sin, so that with the grace of God, we may live and work as God’s people.

We believe the Messiah is Jesus of Nazareth, the only Son of God. He is the Christ. He is not just another prophet, good guy, wise man or great historic figure—no henotheistic guiding spirit. We believe in the Episcopal Church that Jesus is the only perfect image of the Father, and that he reveals to us and illustrates for us the true nature of God. Jesus reveals to us that God is love and that God’s creation is meant to glorify God. We believe Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, that by God’s own act, his divine Son received our human nature from the Virgin Mary, his mother. We believe that God became human so that we might be adopted as children of God, and be made heirs in the family of Abraham and inherit God's kingdom.

As you think about this particular way of reading and understanding the Levitical code I want you to understand this this is a traditional Christian form of reading it. The Gospel of Matthew is very clear here that this work of the commandments, of reading the first and second commandment through all of life, does not lessen the work of keeping it but instead raises it to a new and different level. You see it is not enough, Jesus tells us, to not murder but rather that the seat of murder is anger and we must deal with our anger. Therefore, the higher work is to realize this and seek reconciliation instead of anger. Jesus does not simply want us to do or not do things, but invites us to a transformation of the heart.

Richard Hays in his book Echoes of Scripture writes: “According to Matthew, such radical obedience, to which the Torah, rightly understood, points is possible only through a transformation of character, enabling not merely outward obedience to the law’s requirements but also an inner obedience from the heart. In light of such a vision Jesus summons hi disciple to renounce not only murder but also anger, not only adultery but also lust. (Matt 5:21-30)” (Echoes, 121.)


Too often we want to throw out the law – that is a mistake and a heresy. As my Lutheran brothers and sisters say the law can neither deny the gospel of grace nor can the gospel deny the law. Paul Zahl adapts, in a very Episcopal way, Martin Luther’s three uses of the law and its use. Removing the law as a fear provoking method of producing repentance, Zahl offers two uses: First, as Jesus is attempting to teach us, our actions have consequences. Secondly the inability to keep the law teaches us our human nature is in need of saving and that we totally depend upon God in Christ Jesus and his grace.

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