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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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Proper 7A/Ordinary 12A/Pentecost +2 June 25, 2017





Prayer

Prayer written by pastor Kurt Struckmeyer on discipleship:

God of love,
source of mercy and compassion,
weave your dream for the world
into the fabric of our lives.


Remove the scales from our eyes
and lift the indifference from our hearts,
so that we may see your vision –
a new reign of justice and compassion
that will renew the earth.

Transform our lives,
so that we may accomplish your purpose.

Anoint us with your Spirit
that we might bring good news to the oppressed,
bind up the brokenhearted,
and proclaim release to the captive.

Give us a new urgency
and a new commitment
to feed the hungry,
clothe the naked,
shelter the homeless,
and visit those who live in isolation.

Help us to reach out to those
whom no one else will touch,
to accept the unacceptable,
and to embrace the enemy.

Surround us with your love,
fill us with your grace,
and strengthen us for your service.

Empower us to respond to the call of Jesus –
to deny ourselves,
to take up our crosses,
and to follow.

Make us your disciples.

Amen


Some Thoughts on Matthew 10:24-39

"We all know how to lose our life so that it is lost. The trick is to figure out how to lose one's life so that it will be found. And the key to that mystery is to lose our life for Jesus' sake. For Jesus' purpose, aim, or end."

Holy Textures, Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, Matthew Matthew10:24-39 David Ewart, 2011.


"...Reconcilers must remind themselves moment to moment to stay grounded in God's love. Remember just how much and how unconditionally God loves and values you, and you won't be thrown off-center by anyone's attempts to make you feel as worthless as they do. Remember just how powerful God's love is to heal, and you won't have to flee from things that remind you of your own vulnerabilities and wounds."

Dylan's Lectionary Blog, Proper 7. Biblical Scholar Sarah Dylan Breuer looks at readings for the coming Sunday in the lectionary of the Episcopal Church.


Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text


This week we move back in time in Matthew's gospel.  Jesus is preparing his disiciples to carry on his ministry of proclaiming the Good News of salvation.  He is here in Matthew's Gospel portrayed as wise teacher and also as a master of creation.  Remember in Matthew's Gospel Jesus is about the work of remaking all of creation.  The disciples, those both intimately connected and those loosely affiliated, are near him to learn - they are his students.  In-turn, as we read last week, they are to take on his mission.  

The great commission which begins our readings for the summer last week is the cornerstone and lens for all that is to follow.  

Those who follow Jesus though, while continuing the mission, are not to be like the authorities and teachers of the world. They are not to set themselves over and against others, but rather to be as guides.  There is a lot to learn after all.  

This form of ministry is very scary to the religious teachers and authorities of the day and they are even calling him names.  Jesus is clear - don't be scared. The love and mercy of God that is even now remaking the world will reveal in time the reality of these efforts and how they are not any good.  Don't worry about those who are against you - be focused on the work before you.  Everything will be revealed.

Jesus then interprets scripture for them. He uses a verse from Micah 7.6.  This was a prophecy that told the ancient Hebrews that society which is not of God and destroys the creatures and people of God is not only unholy but it is passing.  The gospel will prevail.  

Setting up next weeks passage we are told this Gospel of mercy and love will have repercussions. People will be against you.  You though must be clear. You must follow and be loyal to the call you have been given. You are already participating in part in a kingdom that is gaining its foothold in the world.

It is hard today to see the hope in some of this...  Yet here it is. God's mission will prevail. God's kingdom will win the day. Love, mercy, kindness, healing, feeding, clothing, sheltering, and caring are the eternal revelatory truths of the Gospel of God in Christ Jesus.  Anything that looks like something else probably is...

It is true that nothing will undo this mission.  Even the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Mtt 16)  I believe that what is falling away in the church today is the parts of it that do nor reflect this new creation.  It isn't that the kingdom of God or the church is dying but rather the human misrepresentation that has more in common with the religious institutions of Jesus' day is continuing its ever dying dance. 


Some Thoughts on Romans 6:1-11


"Lesslie Newbigin once said that if you do not see the kingdom it?s because you are facing the wrong direction."

"Dying to Live," Bill O'Brien, The Christian Century, 2005.

"When he spoke of what happened to him on the Damascus Road, Paul never knew whether to call it being born or being killed. In a way, it felt like both at the same time. Whatever it was, it had something to do with letting go."

"Letting Go Down Here," William Willimon, The Christian Century, 1986. AtReligion Online.



This passage from Romans is a classic conversation between the Romans and the Protestants even today!  In fact I was engaged in just such a conversation not two weeks ago.  Paul is clear God is a lover of humanity and creation. God gives us grace, grace, grace.  Christ's death was a final blow that released grace into the world freely.  Grace has a simple equation in Paul's writings: the more there is sin the more grace abounds!  This is good news my friends...this is THE GOOD NEWS.

So Paul says, rhetorically, so does this mean that we can or should sin even more in order to receive grace?  We need to remember that one of the charges against early Christians and their communities was that they were lawless.  This argument posed would certainly lead to lawlessness.  Paul's answer to himself is "of course not."  

He then makes it clear that through baptism we die to sin and become inextricably linked to Christ's death and his resurrection.  We are raised by God and we are made to walk in the world around us in new life.  Paul is clear that as we rise up into this new life we are to respond to God's grace with (what one scholar called) "conscience-based ethical conduct."  We would not want or desire to respond intentionally to God's love, mercy, and grace with behavior other than that which builds up the body of Christ and reflects well upon the God who saved us.

I believe that Paul was clear to himself - new life means new behaviors. Just as death with Christ is given so is life and so our lives will reflect this new behavior - our lives will look like the life of Jesus.  I think Chris Haslaam of Canada does an excellent job of capturing the Gospel of Paul as laid out in Romans with this "cliff notes version":

Just as we have been grafted on to Christ in his death, so we too will share with him through a resurrection like his (v. 5). We know that we ceased to be dominated by sin and divine wrath (“our old self”, v. 6) when we were baptised. This removed the effects of our waywardness, our enslavement to sin, but makes us ethically responsible for our actions. This is what baptism does (v. 7). Dying with Christ also includes living with him. Because Christ has risen, he will “never die again” (v. 9) – this is unique, once-for-all-time act, an anticipation of the age to come. And then the answer to the question in v. 2: Christ “died to sin” in the sense that sinless, he died rather than disobey the Father, and in the context of a sinful world. He was raised by the Father (v. 4) in order that he might live “to God” (v. 10, as he has always done.) So, as Christ is the model for our lives, and it is he upon whom our lives are grafted, we too must leave sin behind and be “alive to God” (v. 11) in Christ.
The miracle of life with Christ is that though we are never free from sin we are always one step away from complete forgiveness because our God continues to reach out to us with Grace.  Paul believes that those who follow Jesus will live an intentional life - though a grace filled one.  Moreover, that the grace received is the grace in-turn offered to all those whom we meet. We like Christ are to be forgiving and grace filled vessels in the world.  It is not enough to live a life full after baptism it is to reflect and be grace agents int he world around us - ultimately, enabling others to discover their grafted-ness into the life of God in Christ Jesus.


Some Thoughts on Genesis 21:8-21




In our passage assigned for this Sunday we continue with the story of Abraham and Sarah. Abraham and Sarah have had a child and Abraham and Hagar have had a child. Sarah's son is of course Isaac and Ishmael is Hagar's. Things aren't going well in the household between Sarah and Hagar and so God promises to help Abraham out by offering to solve things.

What this ultimately means is that Hagar and Ishmael will be sent away. This is very sad and Abraham is sad too. Nevertheless, Hagar and Ishmael leave and almost die of starvation and thirst. But God provides for them too. In the end Ishmael is to marry an Egyptian and to become a wandering nomad. This is all part of God's plan to continue the line of Abraham and to build on the relationship. 

Ishmael is a name that means "God listens". The tradition is that Ishmael is a great prophet in Islam. Moreover, that he helped by Abraham to build the Kaaba in Mecca. Some ancient stories place Ishmael at the sacrifice and not Isaac. 

J. Kristen Urban is associate professor of political science at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland writes in her essay entitled Isaac and Ishmael: Opportunities for Peace within Religious Narrative the following:

As children of Abraham, Jews and Muslims draw upon rich moral traditions embedded within a shared past recorded in Genesis of the Hebrew Bible and referenced in the Qur’an. It is a past that identifies Ishmael as the father of the Arabs, while his half-brother Isaac becomes the progenitor of the biblical Israelites. What we read in the Genesis account, however, is not an idyllic story, but as Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin observes, the story of a dysfunctional family: “It is the eternal pattern of the book of Genesis: damaged, shattered relationships between siblings and within families.” Indeed, the great drama of Genesis, according to Salkin, is the battle between brothers, whether we talk about Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, or Jacob and Esau".
In this way the story is part of the creation stories seeking to answer, "who are we?" and "who are they?" and "How are we related?" The story is both an origin story for the people of Israel and for Islam. 

For Paul the passage was an allegory in his preaching to the gentiles who had nothing in common with Isaac and more in common with Ishmael. It was a sign that the gentile mission was a mission to those who through Christ had once been far off but were being brought near. The gentile, despite the notions of the religious of the day, were not those driven off by God but instead those who were to inherit the promise of Abraham. (Galatians 4:28-31) This was a radical notion and one that undermined the traditional religious ideas of the day. 

We might ponder for a moment who is it that is our Ishmael? Who do we believe has been cast out? And, is God not listening to them in their desert wanderings? Is God not providing water for them? The discovery that waits for them is that God hears them and loves them. In fact they are offspring of Abraham all through the grace of God. No longer are they to wander in the desert or feel like second class citizens in the houses of God. God has restored not only the fortunes of Israel through the cross of Christ but also the fortunes of those who feel they are the step sons and daughters of God. 



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