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.


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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Proper 8A/Ordinary 13A/Pentecost +3 July 2, 2017


Pour forth into our hearts, strong and faithful God, the wisdom and daring of your Spirit, that we may take up the cross and follow Christ, willing to lose our lives for his sake and to manifest to the world the hope 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 A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Matthew 10:40-42

"What would happen if we stopped expecting people to come on their own initiative through our church doors, and instead took seriously our calling to bring the gospel to them?" 

Commentary, Matthew 10:40-42, Elisabeth Johnson, Preaching This Week,, 2011.

"Who knows how the awareness of God's love first hits people. Every person has his own tale to tell, including the person who wouldn't believe in God if you paid him."

"Salvation," Frederick Buechner, Buechner Blog.

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

It is important when reading this text that we read the word which come just before as they are intimately tied together; the one giving way to the other.
34“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
There was in the Jewish tradition of the day an understanding that in the last days of "tribulation" households would be divided. This is the reality of the time.  Allison & Davies write, "The absence of peace and the presence of the sword is a sign of the great tribulation. And it is in this great tribulation that the Matthean church must carry on its mission." (Allison & Davies, Matthew, 219ff)

Our text for Sunday expands upon this theme bridging and fully quoting Micah 7.6.
4The day of their sentinels, of their punishment, has come; now their confusion is at hand. 5Put no trust in a friend, have no confidence in a loved one; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your embrace; 6for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; your enemies are members of your own household.
Here too it is important to read what comes next in Micah's prophecy to understand the fullness of the words that Jesus is speaking to his followers.  Micah proclaims
7But as for me, I will look to the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. 8Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.
Just as Micah looks to the Lord for guidance in the time of trial; so too the disciples must look upon the Lord and upon his example and come after him.  In a time of division one can not look for allies in the field but rather to be allied with Christ.  "For Matthew, the cross is, as 10.39 makes plain, the outstanding symbol of self-denial."  (Allison & Davies, 221)  Central throughout the Gospel the cross is this profound moniker of discipleship.  This text is universally attributed to Jesus. Irenaeus in Adv. Haer. 4.5.4 wrote: Righteously also do we, possessing the same faith as Abraham and taking up the cross as Isaac did the wood, follow Him (The Word)."

The purpose of the this challenge and call is linked not to violence but rather to service.  The disciples are to engage selflessly to Christian service.  This may include death as it certainly did for many martyrs.  But it is also about justice, food, clothing, and all of human life.  When one orients one's life to Jesus one chooses something more profound than a utilitarian manner of life which serves ego and bodily desires and hungers as the primary source for direction.  It is a profoundly different way of thinking about life. Rather than making a life based upon one's doubts, fears, or suspicions, one is choosing to affirm the life of Jesus and to choose intentional to try and live out a life which reflects the glory of God and immolates Jesus and his compassion and blessings for others.

To choose to live life as a follower of Jesus means to give meaning to one's existence. It is to live the life we were created to live: loving, caring, and creating community one with another.

Our mission is the mission of Jesus as so clearly stated in the Gospel of Matthew and exemplified by Jesus in Chapter 9.  We are to go about all the cities and villages. We are to gather people and teach.  We are to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God out in the world.  We are to be about the work of healing people's lives, their hearts, and their bodies. We are to have compassion on all we find out there, or who walk through our doors. Jesus says to all those who would do this work and come after him, taking up their cross, and denying themselves: "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask teh Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."  (9.35-38 and 10.5-15)

We are given authority by God to do this work. (10.1)

We are sent out in the midst of crisis and a time of fear and injustice. (10.16ff)

We are to be like the teacher and have no fear and to live our Christian lives out in the open (10.26f)

This is our work.

Now that the missionary message is clear Jesus turns his attention to teaching about welcoming missionaries.  Returning again to Allison & Davies:
Those who welcome the eschatological messengers of Jesus in effect welcome Jesus himself and gain for themselves reward.  With this thought, which makes the decision for or against the missionaries equivalent to the decision for or against Jesus..." (225)
With these words Matthew closes Jesus' discourse on the life of discipleship and what it means to place one's mind on heavenly things even in the midst of living in this world.  The kingdom and reign of God is possible in this place. We are able to fulfill our purpose if we are courageous and deny that which "draws us from the love of God."  In some way we are challenged to make a decision about what the purpose of the earth and our place upon it holds within the schema of God's action.

Not unlike Joshua who chooses to follow the Lord, Christians make a decision that the purpose of creation is to fulfill God's will, and that we are to join in that work proactively and intentionally.Our work is not a utility that serves me, or to make life smooth and easy, but is to serve the utility of God. Jesus reminds us, "No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other." (Mtt 6.24)

Take up your cross and follow me.

Some Thoughts on Romans 6:12-23

"The passage reminds us that we are still vulnerable to sin and death, post-baptism. And so the issue becomes: which slavery do we want--slavery to sin that leads to death or slavery to Christ that leads to life?"

Commentary, Romans 6:12-23, Walter F. Taylor, Jr., Preaching This Week,, 2011.

"Christ followers in Africa, Asia and Latin America have no problem with the Christian metanarrative. The way they read the Bible leads to the marriage of word and deed, faith and action. Why do their churches look and act so different from churches in the West?"

"Slave Wages," Bill O'Brien, The Christian Century, 2005.

We continue this week reading through Romans. We might remember that Paul has been clear with his readers that baptism has given them a new life.  Even though humanity continue to try and use the law to be close to God all that did was empower false rulers and religious leaders. The law simply made it even more difficult for reconciliation between God and man to occur.  So God responds by loving even more - this is grace.

BUT, while they have this new life and sin/death are forever beaten by Christ and his cross - we are still subject to sin.  We are still going to be tempted and we will even fall to our passions.  But we must be focused upon the life that is in us - this righteousness.  Sin will not win the day - rather - Jesus' death and our baptism will prevail.  

He then returns to this idea of lawlessness. Can we do whatever we like? Nope.

He uses then the image of ancient slavery to explain the ways in which we make our course through the world.  You cannot serve two masters he can only serve the one or the other - life or death.  You are now, through your baptisms, servants or slaves (people bound to) God.  This bounded-ness to God is unbreakable and our hearts in thanksgiving for salvation seek to respond.

Paul says...look you were focused on the wrong things, things that didn't bring you life or liberty.  You payment for serving these things and these other masters was death. Now God frees you. God frees you to a new life without death.  God invites you to respond and to serve a different master.
I think we have to be very careful as we work through this passage given our western history with slavery.  But like our brothers and sisters in other cultures we should not shy away from speaking about how God frees us and we have an opportunity to respond. We should proclaim the reality that God's grace and love has forever linked us to the divine life and that there is nothing we can do to escape it.  And, should we wish to speak on how the meta narrative offers an ethical life - then engage by all means. But be clear that the narrative is not one that invites a new slavery to a new law which serves the empowerment of men and women and society.  Instead our ethical work is the just and proper use of creation, the freedom of captives, the visitation of the sick, the clothing and sheltering of the poor.  We have a new life of response to God's grace and that is to BE God's grace in the world.

Some Thoughts on Genesis 22:1-14

The story of the akedah makes a claim on us: All that we have, even our own lives and those of the ones most dear to us, belong ultimately to God, who gave them to us in the first place. The story of the akedah assures us that God will provide, that God will be present.

Stanley Hauerwas, a seminary professor, theologian, says: “Christ bids a person to come and die,” and even if he meant that metaphorically, it is still not easy. Are we willing to engage in that struggle, are we willing to make that sacrifice, are we willing to take that journey with Abraham and Isaac? God is waiting to find out, and God is patient and will wait as long as it takes.

Dan Bryant, First Christian Church, "An Uncalled For Sacrifice"

Oremus Online NRSV Old Testament 

In the generations of religious following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem there was a direct connection between the Temple mount as the site of the binding of Isaac. (Levenson, Zion, 94-95) It is that on this mount God comes near and is seen. In this way the tradition dating back to the time of the Judges was that this mountain site, like other shrines in Israel, was a place where in God could be seen. The Temple itself becoming the chief place where God was present among God's people.

What takes place over the centuries is captured well in the writing of Jon D. Levenson in his book Sinai and Zion. He writes, "The Sinai tradition [that associated with the covenant of Moses and the shrines of Israel]...represents the possibility of meaningful history, of history that leads toward an affirmation, Zion [the tradition of David and the Temple] represents the possibility of meaning above history, out of history, through an opening into the realm of the ideal. (Ibid, 141-142)

Here then is the meaning for the early Christians of the story of Isaac. For the early Christian the idea that a beloved son of the family would be brought into violence was in fact a thematic reality - an "archetypal" account if you will. (Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels, 43) In this way it is not that Jesus was the required sacrifice as latter centuries would propose but that it was natural for the beloved son to come to a violent end. In fact it is the very act, in the rabbinic tradition, of this violence to the sons of Israel that over and over again plays a redemptive role in the great Sinai story of historical affirmation.

We want to be careful though. The religious theologian and philosopher is quick to remind us that while there are particular traditions that place God as the actor requiring Jesus death, this is an offensive theology. Perhaps rooted in the story of Isaac what we know is that Isaac's story itself is a story about how God wishes not to have child sacrifice.

René Girard writes:
Far more than we moderns generally realize, human sacrifice was a fact of life among the peoples of the ancient Near East in tension with whom Israel first achieved cultural self-definition. Israel's renunciation of the practice of human sacrifice took place over a long period of time, during which intermittent reversions to it occurred. No biblical story better depicts how the Bible is at cross-purposes with itself on the subject of sacrifice than does the story of Abraham and Isaac. ... We are told that God bestowed the blessing and promise on Abraham after the "test" on Mount Moriah because Abraham had been willing to do what God had intervened to keep him from doing -- sacrificing his son. This understanding may have had a certain coherence in the dark world of human sacrifice to which it hearkens back, and it may have some psychological pertinence, but the true biblical spirit has little nostalgia for the sacrificial past and almost no interest in psychology. What we must try to see in the story of Abraham's non-sacrifice of Isaac is that Abraham's faith consisted, not of almost doing what he didn't do, but of not doing what he almost did, and not doing it in fidelity to the God in whose name his contemporaries thought it should be done. (Violence Unveiled, p. 140)
So what are we left with? Jesus, the son, falls victim to worldly sacrifice as did so many sons an daughters during the time of child sacrifice before God said, "Stop." This is complete victimhood to the memetic, the repeating, sacrificial offerings of humanity to the lesser gods. The God we worship desires not child sacrifice and instead redeems Isaac and stops it...just as God puts an end to death in the resurrection of Jesus.

Today we will spend a good measure of time in our pulpits speaking of the near sacrifice of Isaac and questioning how faithful are we willing to be? Are we willing to journey to Mount Moriah or the mountain top of our choosing and lay down our life? Meanwhile the true question of faith remains be for us. As followers of Jesus are we willing to lay down our violence and willingness to sacrifice our brothers and sisters on the altar of social wars, global un-mandated wars, and doctrines of our supposed protection when the Christ we worship dies as a peacemaker and invites those who would come after to take up their cross and lay down the crosses intended for others.

Girard challenges us:
Nearly four thousand years ago, Abraham passed this test. He heard the voice of the true God telling him to stop, don’t kill. And now almost two thousand years after the voice of our risen Savior forgiving us for our numerous slaughters, all those brought together on his cross, are we ready to pass the test, too? Are we ready to stop the killing? What could happen in our world if two billion people who claim Abraham as their father could finally recognize what this test of faith is really all about?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

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


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.


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. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Proper 6A/Ordinary 11A/Pentecost +2 June 18, 2017


Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servants, the twelve disciples, who you called to preach the Gospel to all people. Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom, that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer, p. 257.

Some Thoughts on Matthew 9:35-10:8

"On one is true that only the unqualified should present themselves for the church's ministry. No one can be qualified. Everyone who serves does so as the Twelve did, by Jesus' authorization given them by Jesus."

"The Unqualified Twelve," Beverly R. Gaventa, The Christian Century, 1993.

"Jesus then instructs his disciples on how to live as itinerants, what to expect, and how to handle difficulties. These teachings were important because his followers would only have known village life - relying on family and kin for sustenance - and would be totally unfamiliar with the social realities of being an outsider."

Holy Textures, Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, Matthew 9:35- 10:8, (9-23), David Ewart, 2011.
We arrive on the scene of our gospel story in chapter 10 following Jesus' modeling of ministry. Jesus has looked out and seen the crowds, he has been moved in his belly towards them, he has been at work then healing and freeing people from that which binds them.

The harvest is now made ready for harvesting and Jesus is prepared to send out people to do the work of mission. This work is work that immolates his own work. And, it is work whereby those first followers are sent, no longer to be led this way and that but to lead and to do the work of ministry.

Before Jesus sends them out he gives them his authority. Jesus lays upon them his spirit and gives them the same power to heal and to cast out. To hold and to release. The word here literally is the word "sent", they are sent, they are apostles. They are no longer disciples. They are in this moment to go out to all those without a shepherd. This is not yet the gentile expansion of mission, but it is an expansion of mission nonetheless. 

The religion of the day was a religion that required the faithful, if they were faithful, to come to the centers of faith. God was in God's house and the faithful came to make their offerings and to support the central religious faith over and against any local or dispersed religiosity. One could only be faithful in direct pilgrimage with the one shrine on the holy mount. So what Jesus does in sending out disciples is quite radical. It undermines a central religious system and takes faith and spirit and the unbinding of burdens out into the field where the people are. 

The image of a harvest is an image of a great dispersed faithful people being gathered in. Lost because of the abandonment of their religious shepherds in favor of a "come and see", "come and get" religious system of exchange. Faithfulness bequeathed to the pilgrim, faithfulness given to the generous who gave of themselves to the house of God. Jesus' and his apostles change this - the Gospel comes near to you...not you to the Gospel.

Furthermore, this radical movement that is to take place in and among the people is to be one that does not require great scholarship or participation in the schools of the wise. There is not need to go and study at the religious centers. In fact a fisherman can do this work. Here again Jesus undermines the religious systems of hierarchical reason and wisdom training in order to be a leader in the faith. Jesus sends them out as apostles with very little training...other than watching him. 

He sends them out without plans. Go and depend on the kindness of others. Go to people's homes. Sure, there will be people uninterested in your work and your good news. That is ok. Pass on by. Pass on by.  

This mission is so very radical that Jesus prepares them by telling them that the religious leaders may even come down hard on the apostles. He charges them not to worry about what to say to the homeowner or to the religious who seek to undermine their ministry. God will give them good words at the best time. 

They will be accepted and they will be reviled. They will be brought in under people's roofs and they will be cast out. But this journey of Good News unleashed on the world and in the streets and people's homes is one that for the apostle will teach them to depend on the grace of God. It will be their humility and mimicking of the the ministry of Jesus and his compassion and love that will reveal to the world exactly who they follow. Their actions, their grace, their mercy, healing and releasing will reveal God to the world. 

Some Thoughts on Romans 5:1-8

"As the prophetic tradition affirms, the Spirit is God's gift of the new creation making the people of God ready for the new age."

Commentary, Romans 5:1-5, Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Preaching This Week,, 2016.

"The past and the future. Memory and expectation. Remember and hope. Remember and wait. Wait for him whose face we all of us know because somewhere in the past we have faintly seen it, whose life we all of us thirst for because somewhere in the past we have seen it lived, have maybe even had moments of living it ourselves. Remember him who himself remembers us as he promised to remember the thief who died beside him. To have faith is to remember and wait, and to wait in hope is to have what we hope for already begin to come true in us through our hoping."

"Hope," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog. Justification, from Whistling in the Dark.

"So for Paul peace is about being in a right relationship with God, not as some distant judge nor as someone who is trying to draw us up into himself, but as one who is expansively living love out into the universe."

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

Oremus Online NRSV Epistle Text 

Paul writes to the church in Rome that all that we are invited to do is to have faith. We are invited to have faith that God has intervened for us. We are to be at peace about what will happen and even our own judgment for God in Christ Jesus has justified us by the work on the cross. Grace is not given to us by faith, but in faith we have the grace given to us.

As Jonah speaks to God in chapter 4: "I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing." While Jonah was bemoaning the fact that we shouldn't even bother with calling people to repentance that the fact is and shall always be that God is a God of grace and it is upon that grace that we stand. We boast in our hope in this very real faith that is in us. 

In our need for endurance, in our suffering, in our lives we come to understand that grace, the grace that enables us to risk, is the grace that give us hope. Our very character is formed by our dependance upon God's grace in in sure and certain hope we will not be disappointed. Paul writes in vs. 5: "and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us."

We as humans are quick to change all of this though. We love our religion. We love to turn our faith into religion. In this way we begin to pretend that God is working on some kind of exchange system. We begin to tell ourselves that we must act right, do right, and talk right. In this way we can earn God's love. Sure, we tell ourselves, God is grace filled but no slacker Christian will he tolerate. But this is to remake God into a lesser god a demigod, a god who likes to barter and exchange devotion and adoration for love and acceptance. Our god, this God of Paul and the scriptures is no such God. This God does not need our love, devotion, and adoration to exist. 

No, in fact this God does not wait for humans to get their act together. This god does not wait for me to get my act together. Paul writes, "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us." What? That is right. God in Jesus Christ saves us while we were yet sinners. God saved us, all people, once and for all by God's mighty work of the cross. To deny this fact, or to make God into a god of exchanges is to create a god in our own image - a god who is no god at all. To make God into a god of no sovereign power to save those God wishes to save. And, it turns out, God wishes to save not the righteous, clean, and faithful but the lost, the least, the unseen, and the sinner. 

That my friends is good news indeed.

Some Thoughts on Genesis 18:1-15; 21:1-7

"Abraham has received a seemingly impossible promise, but his animated efforts on behalf of these strangers under adverse conditions suggest that he still trusts that God can and will do the impossible."

Commentary, Genesis 18:1-10a (Pentecost +8), Jacqueline E. Lapsley, Preaching This Week,, 2010.

"Grace always comes first. Because that grace is there, God's people can respond with their best."

Commentary, Genesis 18:1-10a (Pentecost +9), Sara Koenig, Preaching This Week,, 2013.
"Along the way, Abraham learns that no one person has a monopoly on God's covenant, and that great endeavors require great partners."

"A Great Partner for a Great Endeavor," Torah Commentary by Wendy Amsellem. BeliefNet.

This is a chunk of scripture. But it is good stuff. God has called Abram out of the land of Uhr. Abram has followed God and set up altars along the way. For his work and pilgrimage God has given he and Sarai new names. Furthermore, God has continued to journey with him even into the land near the oaks of Mamre. 

We are told that God appears there in the person of three men. God is then received, the three men are received, by Abraham and Sarah and they are welcomed and fed. Before God leaves God promises that they will have a son. This seems impossible but God makes the promise that it will in fact happen before God is with them again. Indeed God keeps God's promise. 

This event is often depicted in the great masterpiece of the Trinity as written in the icon my Rublev. The icon is entitled "The Hospitality of Abraham."

Now the passage itself is important for many reasons. Certainly it is important in the origination stories of the people of Israel for it speaks to God's special relationship with Abraham. It is also important for it speaks to God's relationship with God's people and God's willingness for those people to prosper and to multiply.

The passage cannot be divorced from the Genesis desire on God's part that the people multiply themselves. Nor can it be separated out from God's continued desire to walk with his creation in the eve of the day beneath the trees of his garden.

Mary translates her pregnancy to the story of God delivering God's people but also the story of God's promise to Abraham. This links the past to the present in the Gospel narrative, the old with the new. Jesus calls his followers to the work of the hospitality of Abraham. In fact that they are the inheritors, the very real progeny of the Gospel and covenant of Abraham says Peter in Acts. Paul invites his hearers to understand they are inheritors of the relationship Abraham had with God.