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.

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

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Proper 9C / Ordinary 14C / Pentecost +7

Quotes That Make Me Think

"Notice how Jesus only tells them what they should do and doesn't say anything about measuring their success. If people don't accept your message, he says, shake their dust off your feet and move on. In our congregations it's difficult to avoid measuring success."

Commentary, Luke 10:1-11, 16-20, Michael Rogness, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2013.

"Leo Bebb said, 'It's worth breaking the law just so you can get put in the lock-up, where the grapes are ripe for the harvest and the Lord needs all the hands he can get for the vineyard. You should hear the way they sing hymns behind bars, Antonio. Makes you go all over gooseflesh.'"

"Hands for the Harvest," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog. The following excerpt was initially published in Lion Country and later in The Book of Bebb:


General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from Textweek.com

Prayer
Give us the courage of the apostles, and let the gospel set us free that wherever life takes us and with whomever we find ourselves, our first word may always be your gift of love and peace.  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 10:1-11, 16-20

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

We begin here in the same way that we began with last Sunday’s Gospel from Luke. Jesus sends out before him messengers. This time he is sending out seventy. The harvest is rich says Jesus. Pray for help in the harvest.

I cannot help but imagine this text without thinking of Moses’ seventy elders who go with him to the mountain. While I do not intend to question the number I cannot help but think this is an important story to be included in the Gospel account because of this very fact. It is important to the theme of Jesus as the great high priestly prophet that he is compared with Moses, not just in deeds as in our last few weeks of reading, but here in action of disbursing authority and replicating and multiplying the proclamation of the Good news.

We can see immediately that previously in our text, Jesus sent the twelve to preach and heal, the messengers to prepare hospitality, and the seventy to do both!

Just as we remember this prophet and the prophets work makes orphans of family members and homeless those who have houses, so here we see that those who follow and undertake this work are sent out for the good work of harvesting and will for their efforts place their lives in danger.

He tells them what to take with them and what to leave behind. The message here seems to be travel light and carry with you the providence of God.

This mission is in the hostile land of Samaria and this cannot be overlooked. They are to be careful and remember they are ministering in a place that will not be welcoming to messengers sent from a prophet of Jerusalem…even if it is in Jerusalem where he will meet his death.  And, at the same time it is in Samaria a perceived hostile land that the Good News takes hold and great works and miraculous deeds are accomplished.

Nothing less than the kingdom of God is going with them, the very same message that has traveled as a mantle with Jesus’ every word. Now they are to carry it, and where it is accepted there will be peace. The kingdom is here and where it is there is peace for those who choose to live their life within its expanding territory.

Wipe off the dirt when they don’t accept you…leave them be and go. When the Day of Judgment comes they will receive what is due them. Jesus uses a colloquial proverb from his day, “go easier for Sodom.” (LTJ, Luke, Sacra Pagina, 168).

We se here in the verses that follow the them of repentance. And, we understand that where the kingdom is, where the grace appears, where God is truly received there is indeed an automatic work of repentance taken on by the people. Woe to those who do not turn to the Lord.

I think that it would be much clearer if we understood that the messengers, these seventy, were actually to do the fire bombing Jesus speaks about. But we must remember from last week’s reading, Jesus carefully instructs those who go before him to stay away from this work. Will there be judgment? The answer is clearly yes. Are we to be the ones to dish it out? Clearly: no. In fact we are to keep focused on the mission. We might remember the plough imagery from last week. We are to keep moving, dust our feet off. True enough…woe to Chorazin…but keep moving…keep proclaiming the Gospel message.

Then Jesus talks about Satan’s fall as he hears of the work his disciples have been doing. This is great news. But don’t let the news of the good work be what drives you forward. Jesus again redirects our attention. It is not the winning or the loosing, the success of the mission, or the fact that they seem to be doing good work that is important, it is rather that they are citizens in the reign or kingdom of God and they are fulfilling their citizenship by ministering in God’s name.

A new beatitude is added to our list. Blessed are those that see and those that hear. Blessed are the ones who can experience and the reign of God in a very real way. While scholars seize on the seeing and the hearing, it is interesting to me in the pericope to note that there is also a part of this saying which is the desire fulfilled. There are many Jesus says who desired to experience the kingdom. They do. So, indeed, blessed are the ones who see and hear of the kingdom. Perhaps, blessed are the citizens of this new kingdom and blessed are they that repent and are able to dwell within its boundaries.

The journey to Jerusalem is the unfolding of Jesus’ sermon on the plain. There is a declaration of woe says Luke Timothy Johnson and then a blessings, here in the alternating action, conversation, witnessing, and teaching we see Jesus’ reign of God unfold. (LTJ, 171)

It is clear that Jesus sees the Samaritans as outcasts of the people and that we are seeing in his own ministry the very essential ingredients to the life and work of the church. If we are a mission of Jesus Christ, the “seventy” sent out into the world, then we must measure our success not on the results of our work, but on these qualities expressed in today’s Gospel.

Moreover, instead of fearing the land outside our congregations like a neo-Samaria we should lift our heads and eyes to see that it is in the world of mission that great things happen and the Gospel takes root.


Some Thoughts on Galatians 6:1-18


Resources for Sunday's Epistle

While taking a stab at the spiritually superior Paul reminds them that their work is to be a mutual support to one another in fulfilling the law of Christ.

This law is governed by the Spirit of Christ.  The law of God in human relationship has a particular history.  God's initial and singular law is replaced by the law of Sinai which human beings are unable to keep.  This then is replaced by Christ and the return to the singular law.  The Sinai law will enslave us; for Paul this is self evident and illustrative both in the teachings of Jesus and through the spirit of revelation.  The singular law revealed is the law of love.

Love one another.  Christ has brought this one way love of God to humans and into the world. The law of Christ, the law of love, is to be the law which ultimately governs the new emerging community of the church.  The church will be known to be Christ's and governed by Christ's law based upon love.

In Paul's words:

"In love, bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will bring to completion in the corporate life of your churches (future tense of ἀναπληρόω - anapléroó) the law that Chris himself has brought to completion.  For Christ brought the Law to completion, when he made it his own Law, by loving us and giving his life for us.  Indeed, he did that precisely in accordance with the will of God our Father, whose promise and whose guidance are spoken by the scriptural Law that is now the Law in the hands of Christ." (Translation by J. Louis Martyn, Galatians, p 558)


Some Thoughts on 2 Kings 5:1-17

I think a lot of times we forget how many times God does good work for the least and lost in the Old Testament. We often times think that it is purely a series of books that have only to do with the people of Israel.

We might do well to remember the Elijah story from a few weeks past when Elijah went and was with a woman, most likely canaanite, and multiplied the food she had and raised her son from the dead. Here again we have a similar story in that Elisha is called out to work miracles for someone not found to be of value in Israel's religious eyes - he is not Israelite, and he is not clean.

The first thing to notice int he story is that Naaman is a great warrior who has had many victories. He has everything in terms of victory but has nothing for he has leprosy. He is counted unclean and therefore he is one of the least.

One of his servants/captives, who became his wife, is one who knows of the miraculous work of the Sinai prophet Elisha and says to her owner/husband you should go and see him. She is an Israelite and considered even lower than he in the eyes of the the powerful in Damascus.

Naaman's king writes to the king of Israel for permission. Naaman is a great warrior and so the king is VERY scared! He is worried that the king of Aram and Naaman are plotting to overthrow him. Elisha says, calm down and let him come to me. So Naaman goes with many gifts. He arrives with many horses and chariots and in great finery.

Here is one of the great exchanges in biblical history:

Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.”  
Naaman has a fit. We are told that Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage.  
Again, a servant wife who is accounted nothing comes to Naaman and says, "Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”  
So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Naaman offers Elisha gifts but Elisha says no. The miracle story is important because on the one hand it is telling the story of religious truth found in Israel over and against its neighbors. Certainly God's power is present there in the prophet Elisha, in the Israelite woman, and in the river Jordan. But I think there is still more here for us.

This is a story of how the power of God to deliver and heal for the least and for the other is important. God is clearly working to restore all people, not simply the people of Israel. God is the God of all nations and all people. All come to him and all will worship. This is a story about how God is, through the work of Elisha (like Elijah), working in the lives of those who do not count as members of his flock - Israel.

I know that there are a number of readings possible over these weeks and some number have stayed with the readings from Isaiah. I have kept to the readings from Kings because I think it is of the utmost importance to see that Jesus himself was involved in a ministry not so very foreign to the Sinai prophets who ministered to the least and lost, to the lame and leper, all of whom have very little value in the eyes of the religious. Jesus' work to expand and pronounce goodness and healing for all the least and lost despite of religious or national orientation is essential and rooted deep in a tradition of a God who has forever sought to work on behalf of the least and lost.



Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Proper 8C / Ordinary 13C / Pentecost +6

Quotes That Make Me Think

"It is easy for us to say, Come, see our zeal for the Lord! and to think we are very faithful in his cause, when we are seeking our own objects, and even doing harm instead of good to others."

From Matthew Henry's Commentary (c. 1700).

"Whether we think of ourselves as aliens, strangers, nomads, or pilgrims on this earth, it is because we follow Jesus, and that often takes us into new ways of living!"

Commentary, Luke 9:51-62, Michael Rogness, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2013.

"So what if the deepest calling of a Christian disciples isn't to be in control – ourselves or vicariously through God – but rather to give up the illusion, to take some risks, and to throw ourselves into this turbulent life and world God loves so much trusting that God will join us in the adventure, hold onto us through all the ups and downs, and brings us in time to the other side."

"Out of Control," David Lose, Dear Working Preacher, 2013.


General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from Textweek.com

Prayer

Sustain us in our decision to follow where Jesus leads, and by the power of your own love, at once both strong and gentle, keep us faithful to Christ and compassionate in serving others.  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 9:51-62
Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

We begin this Gospel lesson with two striking images. The first is the use of the words: “for his being
taken up.” This is the only place in the New Testament where this phrase is used. Hearkening back to Elijah, we can see that Luke intends for his narrative focus to be upon the ascension. (Luke Timothy Johnson, Luke, Sacra Pagina, 162) What is interesting to me here is how much we focus on so many other things in Luke’s Gospel. Nevertheless, there is seemingly a continued focus on the reign of God into which Jesus is taken. There is also a great sense in these first words of our passage of an urgency that surrounds the events that follow. This is the second striking image of the first words from our passage. Jesus is setting his face like a flint towards Jerusalem. The time is now and he is going there now! We must follow now! Come on lets get going.  His being "taken up" will soon occur!

Perhaps it is the elongated waiting for Jesus’ return that makes us loose the urgency of Jesus mission? Yet the call is before us again in this passage; and it is urgent.

To help get the people ready Jesus sends messengers with the purpose of making ready. Again we see that Jesus is in the land of Samaritans, and not in the land of the faithful. This paradox continues to reflect Jesus’ focus on those outside the faithful community and for the church today returns our attention on the people outside our Christian communities. Are we being sent out into the world to prepare the way of the Lord? And, are we answering the call on our lives to do so? Or, are we sitting in our pews waiting for the world of the Samaritan to come in?

Luke Timothy Johnson gives us some history on the differences between the Samaritan and the Temple worship in Jerusalem. It appears that not unlike our disputes in the church today it was about who is a true believer.
“The ancestral antipathy between Judeans and Samaritans is reflected in this verse. It was based on the rivalry between shrines of Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Zion, and on a whole cluster of disputes concerning the right way to read the sacred books, messianism and above all, who was a real Israelite. See e.g., Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 20:119-138; John 4:9-20).” (LTJ, Luke, 162)

The disciples’ response finding that the Samaritans are not receptive is not unlike the complaints of why we shouldn’t bother reaching out to our communities. Why bother? Let the dice fall how they fall…let fire be cast down on them. They aren’t like us at all. They really don’t belong. This lack of vision for the mission of God is as wrongly placed today as it was when those first messengers returned to Jesus. Jesus’ response is clear, he is here to save and not to destroy.

So we get the message. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. He is prophetically breaking into the world and bringing with him the reign of God. His mission is urgent and he is here to save and not to destroy. Old divisions are set aside for the Gospel of Christ. We are offered again the vision of how God sees us and that is a vision of potentiality and a vision of hope that we will see our salvation and join Jesus in the proclamation work, the messenger work. And, so we are told a few hear, a few recognized, a few see who this Jesus really is and what he is up to. So they are eager to follow.

Luke Timothy Johnson reminds us that the threefold call and offer are similar to the threefold willingness of Elisha to follow Elijah in the period just before his ascension, again bringing into focus the great prophetic work of Jesus. (LTJ, Luke, 162)

The problem is that while these want-to-be followers of Jesus get the invitation and they get the vision, they do not get the urgency or understand the cost. This is a prophet who is homeless until he returns home to heaven. This is a prophet who will not rest till rest is won for all. Jesus’ proclamation of the reign of God and his mission sees the potential future of the restoration of God’s world as the highest goal and makes clear the consequences of following.

When we choose to follow we must be attentive like the ploughman. We cannot take our eye off the work and the mission -- to do so is to risk wondering aimlessly and destroying the good work and labor already performed.

Luke Timothy Johnson writes the following about Jesus’ challenge to his audiences and how he calls each into action:

Luke is very careful to note Jesus’ audience in every instance. To each group, furthermore, Jesus speaks quite different sorts of words: to the crowd, he issues warnings and calls to conversion. To those who convert and become disciples, he gives positive instructions on discipleship. Finally, to those who resist his prophetic call, he tells parables of rejection.

Luke gives dramatic structure to these sayings by carefully alternating the audiences. Throughout the journey (as the notes will indicate), Luke has Jesus turn form one group to the other, form cord to disciples to Pharisees. The narrative that results form this “arrangement” is therefore filled with unexpected tension: the Prophet makes his way to Jerusalem, to his death and “lifting up.” As he goes, he speaks the word of God to those around him. Some hear and become part of the people. Others reject the word and are themselves in process of being rejected from the people. The climax is reached with Jesus reaches the city and is greeted, now not by a handful o followers (cf. 8:1-3) but by a “whole multitude of disciples” (19:37) prepared to hear the teaching of the Prophet in the precincts of the Temple. (165)

Several questions come to mind for the preacher. Do we know to whom we are talking? Can we, like Jesus, direct our words in accordance with the challenge needed to be heard by those listening? Are we actually able to proclaim the word of God in different contexts, clearly being aware of the challenge before the one’s in front of us?

Another set of questions arises as I reflect on the particular passage and wonder are we giving positive messages and instruction that help those within our church be better disciples? What does that look like in today’s American church context?

Do we have the sense of urgency needed to motivate our congregation to action?

Are our people ready to hear the teaching of Jesus? Or are our churches filled with individuals who have more in line with the crowd in Luke’s Gospel?

Missionary context and the wisdom to navigate it with solid teaching is an essential ingredient for the modern day priest. Today people are out there in the world soaking up religious and spiritual information from the internet, and the book store, and at the water cooler. They come to church on any given Sunday or during the week and they turn to the leaders of our churches and expect us to have a message. Like the pilgrims who entered the dessert seeking out the solitaries: Abba, give us a word.

Church life today is manifestly different from the pilgrim journey to Jerusalem with Jesus. There are bills to pay, metrics to reach, and leadership groups to contend with – all this is true. But the message of Jesus, the message of the possibility of the reign of God, is no less urgent. The people who live out in the world are turning to their leaders and asking for a word. We must be ready to give it to them. We must reclaim our preaching and teaching office as clergy in the church of God. And, I would argue that we must raise up around us others who also can teach and share in the discipleship and mentoring needed to transform our church into the vision that we had when we joined; a vision that offered hope for the future, and plenty of labor for the laborer. We must recapture and reclaim our churches as places, along the road with Jesus, where those who journey with Him can find words which warn and convert, which instruct and offer positive reinforcement for the journey, which talk about division clearly and work towards unity.

What are my excuses to Jesus for why I cannot come and follow? For why I cannot do what is asked?

Fear of the other: They are not like us. They believe differently. They should have fire brought down on their heads.

Fear for my needs: The journey itself looks too difficult. I might find myself homeless.

Fear for of all the things I have to do….
I sometimes wonder how many of us, including myself, ever get past the gratitude for grace into the mission field?


Some Thoughts on Galatians 5:1-25


Resources for Sunday's Epistle

J. Louis Martyn writes regarding vs 4: "Emphasizing a point he has made in 3:11, Paul puts the verb dikaiousthe in the present tense (conative), thus referring to "action attempted, but not accomplished."...These Galatians have come to think that their salvation results from an allegiance to Christ only when the allegiance is enacted in observance of the Law..As soon as one attaches to Law observance some degree of salvific potency, one has violated the gospel of Christ, thus severing oneself from him." (Galatians, 1997, 471)

How many times have we discovered the freedom Christ has given us to follow him than we turn around and make a new law for ourselves and for others?

This is the primary problem with our mission work in the world today. We have gotten everything backwards! We believe that it is only in becoming deeply religious, deeply spiritual, perfect in following scripture...etc, etc that one can be accepted.  What we have forgotten is that as soon as we do this we abandon Christ and his freedom.  When we do this Christianity itself is of "no benefit" to us or to others.  

"Ouch" I want to say to Paul! You got me...I was "running well" but how easy it is to slip into a Christless faith... a faith where in I am the chief hero and the chief protagonist.  I slip into that thinking that will get me no where and can say, "I got my salvation from here God, thanks!"  And in so doing the power of the cross to set me free is removed (vs 11).

How I need to hear Paul's words, "For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.  For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" 

Let us be clear that we understand the fruit of freedom, the results of living out a grace filled life and mission are these things:  "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."

How often do we take the list that goes like this:  fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing and make it the measure of others - never ourselves.  And, create a new law by which others must be circumcised to follow Jesus.

Instead let us simply ask of ourselves are we living in the freedom of Christ and are our communities characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? And if not let us aspire to such a community free from the law by the grace of Christ Jesus.


Some Thoughts on 2 Kings 2:1-15


Resources for Sunday's OT Lessons


The reading for this Sunday is the transition from Elijah to Elisha. The mantle of Sinai prophet is passed along. They are on their way to one of the holy Sinai cult sites - Bethel. They make their way down to Jericho. There they are met by local prophets and keepers of the tradition. So it is they the go on to the Jordan. Elisha travels the whole way with Elijah. 

When they arrive at the Jordan Elijah takes up his mantle and strikes the water with it. Here then the waters divide and they are able to cross on dry ground. The mantle is the great shawl that was worn across his shoulders.

We are meant to see in this journey a walking and claiming of the land promised by Elisha. They crossing over is no mere crossing over but a reenactment of the crossing over the Jordan into the land that is promised.

On the other side Elijah plainly passes on a double spirit of his prophetic powers to Elisha. After this a chariot of fire and horses come down and take Elijah away in the whirlwind. Elisha is left grieved by the event. He then picks the mantle and puts it on. He then reverses the river Jordan crossing. 

We know historically that the prophetic Sinai tradition was strong, especially in the North, but as some scholars now point out in the South as well. Jeremiah certainly being one of those great southern prophets. Nevertheless what we see here is a deep connection with all that is past, with the covenant theology rooted in their tradition.

Elisha's very passing over is not only meant for us readers to see that he will also be a great prophet, or that he is the inheritor of Elijah's spirit, or that he is welcomed by the local prophetic schools. There is, you see, a message we are meant to receive. God makes way, God delivers, God will take care. The prophet themselves is not some kind of inheritor of a magic mantle as he is a very participation in the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. His prophecy and his ministry is rooted in the delivering act of the God who frees Israel and hears the cries of his people.


Proper 7C / Ordinary 12C / Pentecost +5

Quotes That Make Me Think

"It could also be a time to stress that Christianity is more than just coming to church to receive from Jesus, to praise God in community, but it also involves returning to the world and declaring our experiences with God -- a world that may not always have been kind to us."

Exegetical Notes by Brian Stoffregen at CrossMarks Christian Resources.
"Luke 8:22-25 tells how Jesus stilled the storm. Our passage is equally dramatic: Jesus defeats the powers of the abyss. These are celebrations of power against power."

"First Thoughts on Year C Gospel Passages in the Lectionary: Pentecost5," William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.
General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from Textweek.com

Prayer
Not in power and not in vengeance, O Lord of the prophets, but in weakness and compassion did your Son come among us. Schooled in this unique wisdom, may we be prepared to conquer our fears and temptations, to take up our cross daily and to follow Jesus toward true life. 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 8:26-39


In order to plumb the depths of this weeks gospel passage it is important to understand the narrative context in which it resides. In verse 22 Jesus gets into a boat, a storm arises and Jesus calms the storm as well as the fears of his disciples. The end of this story leaves a question hanging in the air: “Who is this, then, that commands even the winds and the water and they obey him?”

As the question is asked, Jesus steps out of the boat into the land of the Gerasenes, which we are told is opposite of Galilee.

Jesus is met by a man from the city who lives near the tombs and is seen in torn clothes. It is “Legion” then that answers the disciples’ question as he cries out: “Son of the Most High God.”

The name of the demon implies that there are four or six thousand demons inside the man; this is the number in a Roman military legion. While Mark’s Gospel takes on a political tone in the retelling of this story, Luke stays with his thematic proposition that this is a great prophet of God who has tremendous power. So the focus in Luke’s Gospel is on the number of demons and the power given to Jesus by God to heal the world. Who Jesus is and the work he is to do remain the focus in our Lukan version.

The demons beg for mercy. They do not want to return to the abyss, the place of sea monsters. So that is exactly where Jesus sends them.

People gather around to witness the event and then go into the city to retell the story. What the pig keepers saw was the man restored: in his right mind, clothed and sitting at Jesus’ feet. While the people tell the story out of fear leading to Jesus’ dismissal, the man who has been healed is charged to go to the city and make the work of Jesus known.

In this passage a number of themes come together. There is the prophet healer, the revelation of the Son of God. We also see the Gentile mission beginning to take shape. And, last of all, we see one way in which Luke provides us an understanding of discipleship.

The model proposed in this story is the individual healed by Jesus, sent to proclaim the good news into the Gentile world. In this model discipleship is partly a response to the reception of Grace and is aimed at a mission of proclamation to the world, which has not yet heard the Good News of Christ.
The work of the reign of God is the work of salvation. We are healed not only for our sake, we are healed for the greater glory of God, which is manifested in the growing discipleship community. Faith, salvation and mission are united in the work of Jesus and in the work of those whose lives are “closely linked” with him.

Luke Timothy Johnson points this out in the last paragraph (Luke, Sacra Pagina, p 140) of his teaching on this chapter:
“Finally, in Luke’s terse reduction of Mark 5:16, ‘How the man was saved,’ we see his characteristic understanding of what the meaning of the story is: God’s visitation is for salvation. Now, when we see two stories (of the stilling and the demoniac), we perceive not only that they both demonstrate the power of the prophet over winds and spirits, but that they join the elements of ‘faith’ and ‘salvation,’ and thereby provide a link between Luke’s version of the parable of the sower, where hearing the word and doing it is ‘believing that they might be saved’ (8:12), and the story of the two daughters in which saving faith is the entire point.” [8:40-56]
I sometimes wonder how many of us, including myself, ever get past the gratitude for grace and actually venture into the mission field?

Some Thoughts on Galatians 2:15-21

We continue in this section about the work of Jesus and how it is his faithfulness which sets the world aright.

If we follow Jesus we place our trust in him; and in his faith.  And, Jesus' faithfulness with always deliver us.

Paul argues that under the law we were quite simply imprisoned. We were unable to fulfill the law. We could not bridge the gulf between heaven and earth - though it was this law that was to be our guide in making the crossing.  Paul says the law "was our disciplinarian until Christ came."

We might remember last week that Jesus was faithful even under the law.  He was faithful to the end.  It is his faith that justifies us.  And, it is in baptism that we are clothed in Christ.  This is how we come into the loving and saving embrace of Christ.  This completely transforms us.  In baptism we are seen by others, and we see others, as members of the God's beloved family. We see each other through the lens by which God sees us: forgiven, loved, and free.

The conclusion of our reading reminds us of this total freedom and new family.  Paul writes those powerful words which have mended the great schisms and divides:  "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise."

We are heirs to the first promises of God to his people.

Today we live in a world which is predominately made up of many and varied diasporas.  They are mini communities and most have little or nothing to do with either the family of Abraham or the Gentile offspring which Paul is speaking about. 

Is it possible that the same argument that Paul makes to the Galatians might also be turned upon the Christian denominations and non-denominational churches today?  Is it possible that a key to our failure lies in the fact that we have so cut ourselves off from the very people Jesus has come to save? 
What would it be like for the Christian Church to take up the banner of the family of God and welcome all people?  Instead of figuring out how they can't or don't belong...we might be better served if we talked with our neighbors and friends about how God's faithfulness in Christ Jesus has freed us from the law and has broken down the barriers between the "us" and the "them." 
Is it possible that even now the family of God and Abrahams heirs are being added to?

Some Thoughts on 1 Kings 19:1-15

Resources for Sunday's OT Lesson

We continue with our story about Elijah, Ahab and Jezebel. In our text this Sunday we see the response of power to God. Jezebel threatens Elijah's life. He then flees. God waits on him through the work of an angel who comes and encourages him to eat and drink. He is to go to Mount Horeb, one of the great Sinai tradition sites, the mountain of God. It will be a wilderness journey to find the dwelling place of God. 

When he arrives to the mountain, there is a great fire and God's voice speaks to him. We are to be put in the mind of Moses, the Israelites freed from Egypt, and for Christians - Jesus' time in the desert. Elijah is quite literally making a metaphorical journey to restart God's covenant with his people. 

Here then after fasting, desert wandering, and an epiphany of God on Mount Horeb, Elijah is told to go and anoint Hazael as the new king in order to take action on God's behalf against the broken reign in Israel.

On the one hand, the story continues the notion that Elijah is one of the people. He is one of the lost. He is oppressed by the powerful. The reigning kings are pushing more and more people "out of the old protective tribal structures by political centralization and social stratification."(Gottwald, Hebrew Bible, 352) God, who delivered his people out of Egypt, will not stand for more oppression.

Again, the theme of the Sinai tradition continues. The centralization of power, the classification of society along the lines of the centralized power, the reorientation of sites to a centralized faith are all seen as forces that are working against God's desire to be in relationship directly with God's people. The idea of the broken system of intermediaries continues. The price of reform will have to be paid.