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 can open the monthly calendar to the left and find the readings in order.

You can also search below by entering the liturgical date, scripture, or proper. This will pull up all previous posts.

Enjoy.

Search This Blog by Proper and Year (ie: Proper 8B or Christmas C or Advent 1A)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Proper 11A/Ordinary 16A/Pentecost +6 July 23, 2017


Prayer
With a love both powerful and patient, O God you sustain the growth of the good seed your Son has planted. Let your word like a mustard seed, bear rich fruit within us, and like a little yeast, produce its effects throughout the whole church. Thus may we dare to hope that a new humanity will blossom and grow to shine like the sun in your kingdom when the Lord of the harvest returns at the end of the age.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 13:24-43

"Perhaps there were some overzealous 'weeders' in Matthew's congregation who wanted to purify the community by rooting out the bad seed. This seems to be a temptation for followers of Jesus in every age."

Commentary, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, Elisabeth Johnson, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 201l.

"Never uproot people in your mind or attitude by treating them as no longer of any worth!"

"First Thoughts on Year A Gospel Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 5, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.


Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

We remember from our work on this chapter last week that Jesus has been surrounded by crowds and is teaching from a boat. He is teaching in parables as was his custom on many occasions; and was a traditional form of teaching and preaching. Perhaps not unlike our postmodern custom of preaching which weaves in cultural stories, narratives, movies, and prose.

The material in this cycle of teaching is unique to Matthew's Gospel and so may offer insight about the nature of his community.

The Greek indicates that this first story is about a householder with servants. He has fields and during the night while everyone is asleep an enemy comes and sows weeds into his perfectly good field. His servants are very concerned and want to pull up the weeds. He then says, "No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn."

According to Leviticus 19.19 sowing weeds into the field makes the field ritually impure. As a number of scholars point out just gathering the weeds won't fix the problem.

So perhaps in keeping with the sowing of seeds which is also part of this chapter the kingdom of heaven is very different than the community of faith in Jesus' time . Perhaps the kingdom of heaven exists in the midst of the impure - the profane. Not unlike the sower who sows seeds with abandon; we see that the idea of where the community of God exists is in the world. That there is no separation in the world between the righteous and the unrighteous. That the mission of God is in the midst of the people of God (those actively participating in the kingdom and those who have not yet heard the Gospel).

We might be challenged then after reading the first parable in this sunday's lesson to ask ourselves: Do we have enough weeds in our field?

The second parable is the parable of the mustard seed. This parable then continues to challenge our notion of the nature of the kingdom of God. First we have a kingdom which lives out its mission in the midst of weeds which is seen by the establishment as unclean and impure. Now we read that the kingdom of heave is a weed.

No one plants a field of mustard seed. It is voracious and chokes out all other growth. In fact it will blossom and bloom and spread to neighboring fields. It grows into a wild bush where many creatures inhabit and live.

We might be challenged then after reading the second parable to ask ourselves: As missionaries do we sow a Gospel that is voracious and weed like; in which many creatures may find shelter?

In the last parable Jesus says: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” This is crazy! This parable of the kingdom is even wilder than the sower who sows with abandon; the farmer who allows the weeds into his field; or the farmer who grows mustard!

Think about this for a minute. The woman has yeast. She must remove it for the sabbath. This yeast (given the period of time) would have been much like a sourdough starter today. So she is going to mix the yeast in with flour and bake the bread thereby cleaning the house of all its impurity and insuring she does not do any work. She takes this starter and mixes it with "three measures of flour." A measure of flour in the first century was about 8.5 liters; or 36 cups. She has mixed this threefold meaning that she has mixed her yeast starter into 108 cups flour! This will mean that she will end up making about 18 loaves of bread. A loaf of bread would have cost a person a day's wages in Jesus time.

So the kingdom of heaven is like a mad baker! The parable of the yeast is not unlike the parable of the sower. The results is a multiplication of ample amounts.

We are challenged in this third parable to ask ourselves: is our mission proclamation of the Gospel kneading into the world around us copious amounts of yeast to bring forth a great bounty of bread for the world?

Is our Gospel proclamation providing the world around us enough bread that those who are hungry are fed?

The last portion of our text today is an apocalyptic interpretation of the parable about the wheat and the weeds.
36Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

I do think that one has to make a decision as the preacher how one is going to approach the text. Jesus himself teaches to the crowd and teaches to his closest followers. Will you preach to the wheat and the weeds both parts of this text?

I do think that the preacher needs to make some mention of the reality that the Gospel offers a vision of an end that includes judgement. How is that judgement to be explained.

The reality is that this pulls into the text the a Daniel (12.3) like prophetic vision of the end. Perhaps it is entombed in Jesus' time period and should be overlooked. But I think that we loose something if we don't also deal with accountability. I think that for Jesus and for Matthew's community the message is clear: the proclamation of the kingdom of God matters to God.

No matter what the end times are going to be like...no matter what judgment will be like...our work to sow the seeds, live in a mixed community, proclaim the gospel like a weed and leavening the world around us MATTERS to our God. This is our work and we believe it matters and is essential to life in a community that proclaims Jesus as Lord. Perhaps as in the the parable of the wise stewards our work is to risk and believe that we have a God who is willing and even invites his followers to risk.

The ones that always seem to have a hard time in the scripture with God are those who can't trust in his grace and who are forever goes against the grain. From Jonah to poor steward it is the the lack of trust in grace that gets one into trouble.

We do well to remember that God is "a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing." So risk it all. Risk making too much bread and risk waisting seed.

A Blessing
I like this blessing and thought I would share it with you as I think it ties into today's lesson. We have work to do and our footprints in the garden are short, there is community to embrace, a weed like Gospel to sow, and leaven to knead!
"Remember that life is short and we have too little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. So be quick to be kind, make haste to love, and may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be with you now and forever more."


Some Thoughts on Romans 8:12-25 

"The inheritance is not a place or a gift or a reward, but God and God's glory. And God's glory is not golden shiny streets, but God's own being. The glow and glory of God is what we celebrate in God. Paul is saying: our hope is nothing other than to share in that life."

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


"Whatever evil or suffering we face, we have the blessed assurance that God will see to the completion of our adoption, and nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39)."

Commentary, Romans 8:12-17 (Trinity B), Elisabeth Johnson, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2009.


God does not promise that now that we live in the Spirit that life will be easy, without difficulty, suffering or sin.  In fact we will encounter and experience all of these things. But life is changed, life is changed and we have hope because God has reconciled us already and our failings and sufferings cannot undo our salvation. Just as we cannot do anything to earn our salvation so too we cannot do anything to undo it.

Our reality is that now that we are Jesus followers and God fearers that we are debtors. We understand our current reality and God's love, grace, and mercy so we are people with a debt.  We now know what God has done and so we are grateful and our response to that gratitude is to live a life that mimics the one who has saved us.

Paul says that we may hope for reconciled life with God and do not despair over the finality of death which will have no hold upon us.  We are the new heirs of Abraham, we are God's children.  We are adopted by God and made heirs.  We are not like slaves who are mandated to do this or that and must fear the master.  Instead we gentiles, like our brothers and sisters of Israel, call God father because we are intimately connected as part of his family.  This is not a statement of maleness or the sex of God but rather an image of the intimate nature of our reconciled relationship with God.  What are the words you might use to describe this? Regardless of what you call it, we as followers of God in Christ Jesus have received union with God. This is a union that cannot be undone.  This adoption is finalized.

Paul then turns to the reality of the community in Rome; probably around 57 ad.  He recognizes and honors their suffering but also points out that this will fail in comparison to the glory which is to come at the end of life.  Sin is a terrible state and has grown in power and it has enslaved us and made us servants to a demanding and awful master.  The world is in bondage and is even now decaying.  But God is at work in and among us.  Everything is even now laboring with great pains toward the kingdom of God.  As Christians in Rome they are suffering and their suffering is part of these pains.  But we are to see that nothing will put an end to God's mighty work of recreating and reconciling the world.  We are enduring and hoping in things not seen because we know that God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year!


Some Thoughts on Genesis 28:10-19
"Jacob finds himself all alone at nightfall. He is on the run from his brother Esau because of a blessing."

Commentary, Genesis 28:10-19a, Esther M. Menn, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2008.

"Three Hasidic interpretations of the ladder in Jacob's dream shed light on humanity's relationship with God."

"The Ladder to Heaven," Torah Commentary by Rabbi Shai Held. BeliefNet.


So we get to Jacob's ladder in this week's reading from Genesis. While we are taking giant leaps through Genesis this is a great set of readings. Isaiah is of course the other option...but these are fantastic AND they give the preacher a chance to update what most adults remember of the story from their childhood Sunday school lessons to a more mature understanding of the theological arc.

Jacob has a dream of a ladder that reaches from the earth to the heaven. Angels are going up and down as you well know. In a great theophanic moment God is next to him and says:
“I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Here then is a passing on of the mantle of Abraham. A promise of those things to come. It is both the mix of origin story about our faith ancestors, explaining how we got here, and it is at the same time a story of a man's walk with God. 

Jacob of course responds, "
"Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel...
This of course is to be one of the great shrines of the people of Israel. The story is also a significant Orthodox vision of the incarnation and this reading is used on the feast of the Theotokos. For early Christians there is still more.

In Mathew's Gospel Jesus himself takes up the place of God in Jacob's dream. Such a parallel is obviously to entwine the ancient promise and story of Jacob within the coming of Jesus as if he is the fulfillment of the covenant promise. (Hays, Echoes of the Scripture, 172)

In the Gospel of John Jesus, as the incarnation, is himself seen as the house of God. Here Jesus is the place of God's dwelling presence on earth - a living Bethel. Here he is the living water from the sacred well himself. Jesus is the gate to heaven. He is the one upon whom oil shall be poured. (Ibid, 313) In John 1:51 we even have the allusion of the angels descending and ascending upon the Son of Man. There is also a delightful essay entitled "Jacob Traditions and the Interpretation of John 4:10-26". (Ibid, 427)

We have worked a long way into this narrative to reach this high point. There is more here than mere lineage of Jesus, or faith ancestry work. Instead what we begin to see (because we believe in an eternal incarnation that was at work prior to the unique revelation of the incarnation in Jesus) that God's plan to walk again in the garden within and with his creation is already at work both as the incarnation travels and walks the pilgrimage that Jacob must walk, and as a precursor of revelation for those who would find need to interpret the person and ministry of Jesus. 


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