Finding the Lessons

I try to post well in advance of the upcoming Sunday.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Epiphany 2B January 18, 2015

Quotes That Make Me Think
"But let the humble, gentle, patient love of all mankind, be fixed on its right foundation, namely, the love of God springing from faith, from a full conviction that God hath given his only Son to die for my sins; and then the whole will resolve into that grand conclusion, worthy of all men to be received: 'Neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by love.'"

An Israelite Indeed (John 1:47). Sermon by John Wesley.

"Adeste fidelis. That is the only answer I know for people who want to find out whether or not this is true. Come all ye faithful, and all ye who would like to be faithful if only you could, all ye who walk in darkness and hunger for light. Have faith enough, hope enough, despair enough, foolishness enough at least to draw near to see for yourselves."

"Come and See,""Nathaniel," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.

"What can we do to alleviate some of those fears that may well keep our neighbors and friends from ‘coming to see Jesus’ for themselves?"

"It Seems Like It Should Be So Simple...So Why Isn't It?" Janet H. Hunt, Dancing with the Word, 2012.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from Textweek.com


Prayer
O God, you reveal the signs of your presence among us in the church, in the liturgy and in our brothers and sisters. Let no word of yours ever fall by the wayside or be rendered ineffective through our indifference or neglect. Rather, make us quick to recognize your saving plan whenever we encounter it, and keep us ready always to serve as prophets and apostles 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 B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.


Some Thoughts on John 1:43-51

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

This week we shift across to one of our Johanine readings for the year.  The passages in John's Gospel, according to most scholars, follow a carefully crafted narrative that steers people away from the proclamation of John the Baptist and towards the revelation of Jesus.
The passage also refers to the calling of the two disciples.  In reading the whole account you can see that they bear witness to Jesus as the Messiah - the "Son of Man."  In this theme we have the notion of the promised king of Israel being presented in the holy titles being used.  At the same time the competing notion that such a vision of Jesus' ministry is all too narrow.

Another theme has to do with the calling of the disciples.  The image of Philip and Nathaniel who being seen by Jesus, were called by him, and then the blessings of life as they do so.  Moreover, their own witness to Jesus as the "Son of Man."  Seeing and proclaiming who he is and revealing to the world that this is the one to come and see.

Now what has most intrigued me about this passage comes from Raymond Brown's text on John (vol 1, 59ff). And that is the images that are being linked to this story from ancient Israel's story.  Brown illustrates well, I think, that Jesus in the story is connected to the image of Jacob's ladder (shekinah), the image of the divine chariot (merkabah) of Ezekiel, Bethel itself, or the rock (the first rock God created upon which Jacob laid his head).  What a wonderful set of traditions; none of which in and of themselves are completely convincing scholastically.  Nevertheless, I love them!

What really resonates with me as I hold in tension the symbols floating in the text and the movement away from John the Baptist combined with the "seeing" imagery of Philip and Nathaniel is that we have quite a wonderful passage about Jesus as the center of Christian life and discipleship.  Jesus is central and he is out in the world for us to see.

What I thought is that we preachers spend a lot of time telling folks we don't see Jesus.  Think about that for a moment. We tell them we don't see Jesus in their actions, in their spending, in their lives. We don't see Jesus in the church. We don't see Jesus in the world. We don't see Jesus here and we don't see Jesus there. Think about the last 10 sermons you gave and I wonder how many of them spent time telling people how we don't see Jesus.

In fact I wonder if the amount of preaching about not seeing Jesus in people's lives has to do with the numbers of people who don't want to listen to us preach about not seeing Jesus and so don't come to church.

What if this Sunday we actually told our Episcopalians and those who might be visiting with us that we see Jesus? We see Jesus in them. We see Jesus in their lives and in their stories. We see Jesus out in the world. What if we made a concerted effort this Sunday to not give "Bad News" and we tried to avoid telling people how we don't see Jesus?  What if this Sunday we gave them "Good News?"

What if this Sunday we preachers were solidly about seeing Jesus Christ out in the world?  If we like Philip and Nathaniel were able to tell our neighbors, brothers, sisters, and fellow church goers that we see Jesus and we want them to see Jesus too?

It would be news if we and our church goers left our churches and went looking for Jesus out in the world and found him in places, images, and things like rocks and said, "Look here is God out in the world. Here is how God connects us. We call this connection to the most high God - Jesus."  Generous and holy naming would become our work out in the world and people would hear from us a new story; perhaps a story they have been longing to hear. 

Our work as evangelists is not sitting around waiting for people to come into our churches and ask us to show them Jesus; then in some theological discourse of via negativa telling them where we don't see Jesus.  Or even worse, preaching to them about how they aren't doing it right and how we don't see Jesus at all in their lives and in the world.

Our work is to go out and generously listen, generously name Jesus in the lives of others, and generously invite people to come and see the good news as proclaimed in our Episcopal Church.

I wonder if we might together, as preachers and parishioners, promise that for the next month we are going to take on as our Epiphany discipline the work of seeing and announcing Jesus to those around us; and that we would do that with positive and affirming statements.


Some Thoughts on 1 Corinthians 6:11-20




Resources for Sunday's Epistle

"Paul stresses that the believer in Christ also belongs to that same Lord. There is no such thing as being one's own. Each of us has commitments that bind us to other persons or ways of thinking and living."

Commentary, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, Arland J. Hultgren, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2009.

"...Paul regularly shifts our focus from morality to relationships, just as he shifts our focus from law to freedom. But his notion of freedom is wise to issues of power and confronts the splitting and compartmentalization which refuses to let God be God and love be love in everything."

"First Thoughts on Passages on Year B Epistle Passages in the Lectionary: Epiphany 2," William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

This is a very important passage in the discussion of Grace. Basically Paul's take is, simply put, that: “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.

Rowan Williams once told me: "We don't experiment with our bodies."

Certainly, Paul is not speaking to our particular issues and culture wars. Paul is speaking specifically to Corinth - which was not a healthy place. It was a Licentious place.

They perhaps have embraced freedom too much. It isn't that we aren't free but not all things are good for the body or good for the community. As one fellow blogger Chris Haslaam put it: "He quotes a slogan from his opponents: 'All things are lawful for me'. (They are saying I can do anything I like.) He does not disagree - for Christian living does not depend on observing a set of rules, but on God who accepts even those who break his laws – but he adds a qualification: some things may not be 'beneficial' for the person or in the community."

The issue for Paul is when the individual is enslaved by their indulgence. Christian Liberty is not a license to destroy one's body or another's. It is not to be disruptive or destroy a community for the sake of your own beliefs.

The key here for everyone to hear is that when we are too focused on our will and our want and our desire we are taking our focus away from God.

We are not only in a spiritual relationship with God but also a physical one. Overeating, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, sexual abuse, in fact any abuse of the body (though it will be remade in the resurrection) is a divide/chasm created between God and ourselves.

We are not separate bodies and then separate spirits - we are intermingled, entwined. Our lives are as well. There is no secular and profane but instead a great connection of all things - and that connection is intimately tied to God too.

I believe all of us would agree that Paul's understanding of how the body works is a bit outdated. We know more about how we work, how our bodies get their shape, and how they go together with other bodies. We have new thoughts about what is a person and how is that person truly connected body and spirit/psyche.

None of this new thinking, which is important and VERY different from 1st century understanding of biology and psychology, lessens Paul's clarity about how while we are free because of God's Grace, our freedom is not always good for us.

I think the preacher this week has an opportunity to reclaim this passage from the sexual debates and culture debates of our time and talk about how to re-engage a spirituality which includes the body.


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