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)

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Proper 20C / Pentecost +15 / September 18, 2022

Marinus van Reymerswale "Parable of the Unjust Steward"


Let the sincerity of our worship be matched by the depth of our commitment to justice. In a world where money rules supreme, may you alone be our master, and may we find our delight in serving each other. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Luke 16:1-13
"Commentators routinely remark that the parable of the Dishonest (Corrupt) Manager stands among the most challenging texts in the New Testament, often regarding it as the most perplexing of Jesus' parables."

Commentary, Luke 16:1-13, Greg Carey, Preaching This Week,, 2010.

"While it is naïve to read into Jesus? teaching our perceptions of the complexities of economic exploitation - we can let Jesus stay in the first century uncolonised by our insights - nevertheless the proclamation of the kingdom was meant to be good news for these poor and bring them blessing. How can you assert these things as God's priorities and not address what is going on?"

"First Thoughts on Year C Gospel Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 18, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

This Sunday’s lesson is directed not at the crowds who are following Jesus and not at his detractors but rather at his disciples. This is clearly a discussion with those who have already chosen to follow Jesus and are searching for an understanding of expectations and the work that lies before them.

The clarity in expectations is very important. However, I would venture to guess that most of lean on our forgiveness of such expectations more than we do live into the expectations of the reign of God. This is perhaps the reason why this Sunday’s Gospel is difficult to hear and difficult to preach.

As scholars point out there are a number of difficult issues. Luke Timothy Johnson lays before us a couple of issues to be dealt with:

1. Where does the parable end and the moral lesson begin?
2. What is the nature of the steward’s action? Did he sacrifice something in his actions or is he continuing his same old dishonest ways?
3. Is this parable connected by a loose list of moral teachings or is there one overarching theme? (LTJ, Luke, 247)

If we go back to the text and set these difficult textual and critical issues aside for a moment we might gain some clarity. So, reread the text, and let's begin again.

We are to be stewards this is clear and a perennial theme throughout Jesus’ message, especially in the Gospel of Luke. This seems simple enough.

Jesus has turned his attention from the Pharisees and scribes to his disciples. Jesus seems to imply that the trouble with his detractors is the same with this steward – they have misused what is entrusted to them: the community of God.

Jesus offers then an understanding of what his followers should be doing. They should be proactively responsible and not squander. They should be proactive in lessening the burden of their neighbors.

When we hold on to, squander, or misuse what is given to us as God’s stewards in this world then we separate ourselves from God through the misuse of “mammon.”

If we give away, loosen the burden of others, care and tend what is given to us then we build up and strengthen our relationship with God and secure our place in the reign of God.
The other day I read a headline, “The earth does not care what we do with it.” This is true in a very real sense. The earth does not have feelings and in fact, will regenerate itself if we wipe out civilization through human ineptitude. However, as Christians,
we understand that God does care. God does have expectations of us. I know these are human words to describe our relationship with God, but they are Jesus’ words. We are given as stewards all of creation and a tremendous number of relationships. What we do with them does matter.

How we are stewards matters for us and our lives in this world. And, it matters in our lives in the world to come – this is Jesus’ message in Luke’s Gospel.

The story of the dishonest steward gives us each an opportunity to look at how we use what is given to us. How do we use creation? How do we use the Gospel? How do we use the revelation of God in Jesus Christ? How do we use our lives? How do we use our bodies? How do we use our relationships? How do we greet people who are God’s own? How do we treat one another? How do we lessen the burden of others? Or heap on the burden of others? What we say, what we write, what we spend, how we act matters to God and it matters in the reign of God.

You and I like the disciples are already confronted with the “visitation of our Lord.” We know the expectations and today we are called to make an account. Are we ready?

Some Thoughts on 1 Timothy 2:1-8

"The power that is in Jesus, and before which all other powers on earth and in heaven give way, the power that holds all things in existence from the sparrow's eye to the farthest star, is above all else a loving power. That means we are loved even in our lostness."
"Every One of Us," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.

"From a text in one of the pastoral epistles, a risky, subversive way of being Christian starts to come into focus: we do not pray for the powerful in order to be left alone by them. We pray so that our paths may cross with these people?in Christ."
"Prayers and Peace," Mary Hinkle Shore, Pilgrim Preaching, 2010.

"...none of us should ever leave this Preface and head for Verse 8 and the verses following it without being cognizant of the difference between the snapshots of our heritage and the videos of our own time."
"Look Out! Here Come the Ladies, the Bishops, the Presbyters and the Rules!" Phyllis Tickle, The Hardest Question, 2013.

Our second Sunday of reading from I Timothy brings us to the topic of worship: "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings."  He says these are to be made for everyone and offers a brief list. Our own Episcopal form of public prayers takes this very ancient model into consideration as it to offers prayers for leaders of church and state, and every kind of condition.

For Paul, and rooted deep in our own liturgical practice, there is no separate world and church world.  Everything is unified and God is Lord of all.  Interesting too is the notion that Paul and other Christians of his era did not have a symbolic world view as developed as our own Western one; nor did he believe that the world was to be changed by our proclamation in quite the same way we Western Christians think today.  (Luke Timothy Johnson, I Timothy, 194ff)  He did believe though that God was Lord of all and that while you pray for kings and emperors, they are not God.

He writes, "For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all—this was attested at the right time."

We are also to be praying for all people.  We do this because we believe in the mission of Christ Jesus. We believe that we are to pray for all people as Paul asked us to do.  God wants and desires that all people be saved and embraced by Christ, this is our prayer for them.  This is an important notion in Pauline theology because Paul is making it clear that God is not a mere tribal God. This God is not one God among many.  This is not a God of a people. This is God, the God of all people.  Who wishes to offer grace to all people.  There is nobody left out of this vision.  God is the God of all writes Paul    So Paul says that this is what he is to offer, this is the Gospel.  God in Christ Jesus loves all.  (LTJ, Timothy, 197)  He writes, "For this, I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument."

This Good News is news for everyone, every family, every nation, and every people.  It is news because we are God's creatures, the creation of his own hand. We are his people. We are a global people of God.  And, God's salvation and salvific act is for all of us.  Sometimes I fear we get in the practice of judging who God has come to save and who God has not come to save. Sometimes I think we let ourselves off the hook regarding those we find unlovable, undeserving, and unprepared.  This is not the kind of Good News Paul is talking about and it is not the Good News of Christ Jesus.  Christ came to save us all, he is friend of sinner, and he is the challenger to the righteous.  He is all embracing and all loving.  What would a church be like if we not only prayed this Good News but treated everyone who walks through our doors, who we meet, as God's God's one of God's people?

Some Thoughts on Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

"Jeremiah nicely complements Jesus' parable of the dishonest manager. Here we see someone shaken free of complacency."
Commentary, Jeremiah 8:18-9:1, Garrett Galvin, Preaching This Week,, 2013.

"Self-righteous judgment among humans, while all too common in today's religious landscape, is inconsistent with biblical thinking for at least two reasons."
Commentary, Jeremiah 8:18-9:1, Frank M. Yamada, Preaching This Week,, 2010.

We continue reading in the book of Jeremiah. A little historical update for this week's lesson. Scholars believe that Jeremiah is writing in the midst of the great crumbling of Israel's empire. The north and the south alike have made dubious alliances with foreign powers and now are paying the price as weakened leadership fall prey to invading armies. You will remember that God has promised that he will not stay the hands of the invaders because of the leadership and people's lack of faith. This has been highlighted in Jeremiah through the past few weeks as he has hinted at the people's return to foreign gods - different than the God who brought them to this promised land and garden.

Jeremiah truly weeps at the prospect of the destruction that is occurring:
18 My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick. 19 Hark, the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land: “Is the Lord not in Zion? Is her King not in her?” (“Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their foreign idols?”) 20 “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” 21 For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. 22 Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? 
9 O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!
Carl Jung believed that suffering and meaning and life are intertwined. He wrote in his autobiography:
"The world into which we are born is brutal and cruel, and at the same time one of divine beauty... Which element we think outweighs the other, whether meaninglessness or meaning, is a matter of temperament. If meaninglessness were absolutely preponderant, the meaningfulness of life would vanish to an increasing degree with each step in our development. But that is—or seems to me—not the case. Probably as in all metaphysical questions, both are true: Life is—or has—meaning and meaninglessness. I cherish the anxious hope that meaning will preponderate and will the battle.” From: Memories, Dreams, and Reflections by Carl Jung.

Jeremiah seeks this meaning: "For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?" Suffering is real and the battle is real. The world is brutal and cruel. Some religions believe that such suffering is simply a human imagination or matter of perspective. Christianity with its ancient roots in Judaism, shared with Islam, recognizes in the Abrahamic faith the fact that human suffering in all times and in all places is real. Yet there is meaning in the suffering. 

Key seems to me to be rooted in the notion that suffering is brought about by seeking the powers and authorities of this world. It is about false pieties and religion that empowers and ingratiates the religious leaders. When this happens, and the leaders forget their responsibility to the people, everyone will suffer.

While our passage today is mired in the pain and suffering of a people, it points forward to a new birth. God is in some way the absent landowner, and yet filled with heart ache and tears as he sees his people's unfaithfulness and their own calamity. 

Thankfully we know the rest of the story. We know that part of what is also here is God's presence in this suffering. The people and their lack of faith, their seeking power through political alliances, and the use of religion for the worldly gain of authority and power does not remove God's love or desire for hope and balm for the people. 

Monday, July 18, 2022

Proper 19C / Pentecost +14 / September 11, 2022

So in Jesus, you have come searching. May we never forget how much we are loved. May we never refuse to love others as much.  We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Luke 15:1-32

"I think that these parables can be read as jokes about God in the sense that what they are essentially about is the outlandishness of God who does impossible things with impossible people."

"One Lost Sheep," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.

"The main verb in the second conclusion (v. 10) is ginetai a present = "There is". So, when a sinner repents, at that moment there is joy in heaven. Will there be joy on earth, then seems to be Jesus' question."

Exegetical Notes by Brian Stoffregen at CrossMarks Christian Resources.

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

This is a big chunk of text. The new lectionary expects you to use the first part of this selection. The Roman Catholic expects you to preach on the second. The problem is that they all go together.

I am going to offer you both here. There are also three sermon selections below. One of them is written the other two recorded.

Let us begin with the background. As we well remember in chapter 14 we have been listening to Jesus teach about inviting the least and the lost to the banquet. He then offered a vision of what this is going to cost you. To break with familial and religious traditions is costly. But we are invited to follow him more. We might look at the cost like a person building a foundation or going against a great army.

Here then Jesus gives us the parable of the bad shepherd and the woman who has lost her coin.

The parable of the shepherd is most often remembered as a lesson about us being the one lost sheep. Certainly, this is true. "I was once lost but now I am found," we sing. In the frame of reference, we see Jesus using it to show that our work is to find the lost sheep too. We are to go out and find the least and lost. The story ends with the banquet imagery again. It is our work to join Jesus in the ingathering work.

The woman has lost one of the coins sewn into her wedding garment. It is important. She turns her house overlooking for it. A cardinal sin in the social world of her day - a dirty home. She finds it and has a party! Again, banquet imagery of friends and neighbors of the new family of God celebrating that which was lost has been found. Again our seek the lost.

It is as if the parables again reveal the cost that is to be paid. The other sheep left the social expectations of the day broken. The bad shepherd and the poor housekeeper are icons of the disciples' work.

Here then we move into the story of the Prodigal Son.

I like this translation of the last words of the parable: "Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It is necessary to celebrate and rejoice because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

We find Jesus again in the midst of preaching the lost and the found; this time using what has become one of the most popular parables from the New Testament.

I find Jesus’ words in verse 32 to be paramount. The words are left out of many translations but essential to the text: “It was necessary…” According to Luke Timothy Johnson (Luke, 239), this verse begins with these words. This is the literal translation. Bringing all of the stories of the past few weeks together in the mind of the reader and listener, Jesus is saying, “It was necessary.”

“The first part of this is pure Gospel,” says Luke Timothy Johnson, “…the lost are being found, the dead rising, the sinners are repenting.” (242) The mood quickly shifts as the reader becomes aware that the established religion of the day is not eager to accept the message of good news. It is clear that they (the powers) understand their faith as a “slavery” to God and religion. They resent grace being offered on the boundaries of the institution to those who do not follow the law as they do.  Their sentiments are to be found in the loyal son in our parable.

Many times we read the passage about those left outside the banquet as judgmental and as mean. But the passage is clear, God has offered, God has gone out of his way to invite and find and heal, God welcomes them. All are invited.  The good son and the bad son are to sit at the table together.  And, who those are shall be in the telling and the listening. One possible group who is not ready to be at the table with the sinner may, in fact, be the loyal sons of Abraham.  Those religious who have decided to shut this miracle-working, prophetic, and the powerful new king of the reign of God out, have instead kept themselves from enjoying the banquet feast.

Again, our passage which is filled with the good news challenges us to see where is it that we in keeping others outside of the kingdom, are instead keeping ourselves from rejoicing. After all, don’t we see that “It is necessary.”  Is it possible we have taken the place of the good son; we are the good sons of today.

I think this week especially about our evangelism efforts and our efforts of welcoming newcomers to our church. How do we do the Gospel work without getting stuck like the son who has worked so hard? Can we receive the grace of God, and then turn to our neighbor who has not "earned it" in our eyes and offer grace?  That is truly hard work.

I think sometimes I am so relieved to receive the good news and the grace of God that I want to keep it all for myself, it as if it were too scarce and precious to share. I love being the center of God’s love and grace. Most of all, I like to pretend that I have earned it.

But this passage like the others before it challenges me to understand that there is more than enough grace for everyone. By the grace of God go I, the same grace is given to all, and wouldn't it be beautiful if we could all walk together into the banquet hall hand in hand; the good son and the bad son. And, when asked, "Which is which?" We might reply: "I do not remember."

I was lost but am found. I was dead but now I am alive. Now, I am invited to be the shepherd, the woman, and the father. More often than not I think we find ourselves, in our missionary context and our foreign culture, to be the faithful son who stayed home and worked. It is difficult to see that it is necessary. It is. It is necessary that we celebrate because God has brought us all together and those who were lost have been found.

Some Thoughts on 1 Timothy 1:12-17

"At first blush, it may seem to be a text ready-made for a classic evangelistic sermon about the power of Christ to save unbelievers. And it certainly does speak to that reality. However, the evangelical preacher should take care not to run ahead of the text and risk missing the powerful tensions that remain that in fact deepen the profundity of Christ's saving work."
Commentary, 1 Timothy 1:12-17 | Timothy L. Hahn | MDiv, MATS Student at NTS | A Plain Account, 2016

"'Saving,' as Paul describes what happens to him, is not moving a name from one column to another. Saving is certainly not ignoring sin and the harm it does. Saving is re-commissioning someone for new work. It is taking a persecutor of the church and turning him into an ambassador of Christ. Saving is the human equivalent of fashioning swords into plowshares."
"On Christ Saving Sinners," Mary Hinkle Shore, Pilgrim Preaching, 2010.

As we have seen in a few of Paul's letters his thanksgiving always begins to pull out strands of the letter's arguments.  The letter to Timothy is no different.  

Paul begins by telling the reader(s) that he was given grace by Christ Jesus and strengthened.  God offered this grace to Paul even though he was a "blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence." God was merciful, and primarily so because he had not yet received the Gospel.  He acted "ignorantly and in unbelief."  Paul then offers a phrase Episcopalians include as part of the "comfortable words" in our liturgy.  Paul says, "The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."  

What Paul will ultimately be arguing is that he himself was an outrageous example of how the law does not bring righteousness.  He did not understand, grace, mercy, and God's love; which is the Christ's law as well as the disciple's response. (Luke Timothy Johnson, 1 & 2 Timothy, 182) Instead, Paul will explain that it was rage and murder that the law drove him to undertake.  Christ Jesus offered change and transformation. 

This is a wonderful passage to read along with the Good Samaritan.  Luke Timothy Johnson writes these words:  "How God worked in Paul is the model for how God works in all believers.  The final words of the thanksgiving remind readers by means of a doxology that no human norm or performance, but solely the "only God," can shape a life leading to "eternal life."  (Ibid, 183)  

How quickly we humans have rushed to become as Paul prior to his conversion; I am struck with how important it is to hear from someone who has received grace and been transformed.

Some Thoughts on Jeremiah 4:11-28

"The preacher who chooses to preach this passage has no easy task. Walter Brueggemann calls it a "dangerous poem," and rightly so."
Commentary, Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28, Anathea Portier-Young, at, Luther Seminary, 2016.

"The anguish of the prophet appears to mirror the anguish of God which cannot believe the people are bent on self-destruction. I can't help feeling this must the case today as we watch our world bent on self-destruction because of our greed and the consequences of our actions."
Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28, Commentary, Background, Insights from Literary Structure, Theological Message, Ways to Present the Text. Anna Grant-Henderson, Uniting Church in Australia.

The prophet confronts the people on their lack of response and returning to the Lord. God is clear that he will not stop the Babylonian's from their invasion. 

Jeremiah prophesies:
11At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse— 12a wind too strong for that. Now it is I who speak in judgment against them. 13Look! He comes up like clouds, his chariots like the whirlwind; his horses are swifter than eagles— woe to us, for we are ruined! 14O Jerusalem, wash your heart clean of wickedness so that you may be saved. How long shall your evil schemes lodge within you? 15For a voice declares from Dan and proclaims disaster from Mount Ephraim. 16Tell the nations, “Here they are!” Proclaim against Jerusalem, “Besiegers come from a distant land; they shout against the cities of Judah. 17They have closed in around her like watchers of a field, because she has rebelled against me, says the Lord. 18Your ways and your doings have brought this upon you. This is your doom; how bitter it is! It has reached your very heart.”
The people are awash in false prophecy and the religious leaders of the kingdom are bankrupt spiritually.  God's heart breaks and he weeps and Jeremiah shares in his heartbreaking:
19My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh, the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent; for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. 20Disaster overtakes disaster, the whole land is laid waste. Suddenly my tents are destroyed, my curtains in a moment.21How long must I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet?22“For my people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good."
God is clear through Jeremiah's words that the reality is that though the conquerers will bring death and destruction God will birth out a new transformed people. In their dying shall also be their birth as a new and faithful nation.

I am reminded of the lesson from John 12:24, "Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life." What is true in the prophecy foretelling the death and resurrection of Jesus is true too for the faithful people of Israel is true for us.

The great paradox of the Gospel is that in death there is life. In loss are renewal and discovery. This is the ancient truth of our ancient faith ancestors and it is true for us as well.

Previous Sermons Preached

Go Find The Lost and Fill My Banquet

Sep 15, 2019, Proper 19C Sermon on Luke 15:1-10 The Lost Coin and the Lost Sheep. Given at St. Francis, Tyler.
The Prodigal Son

This sermon is on Luke 15.1-32 with an introduction from lyrics of Prodigal Son by the Rolling Stones.  Preached on March 15, 2010, at St. Thomas Nassau Bay, Texas.

Proper 19C

Luke 15 – The Prodigal Son

Paul Rodgers

Of the Rock Band

Bad Company

Famously sang these words:

“Bad company

And I can't deny

Bad company

Till the day I die”

There once was a bad son

A bad bad son

A bad company kind of son

who went to his father

The Son asks for

his part of the inheritance,

He tells his dad

“put your will into effect

drop dead

and give me what is coming to me”

It is fratricide

The death of the father[1]

Now I am leaning

on one of my favorite

theologians here

quite heavily -

Robert Farrar Capon

He points this out,

futhermore, that...

the father does what the Father does

He gives the son what he wants

The father turns himself over

As God in Jesus turns himself over to the people

The son goes off

does unspeakable things

has a great time

lives life to the fullest

and beyond

Wasting all that the father had

all that was given to him

The son has wasted

His very being - essence

all that the father had given

and all that the son inhabited

All was empty

All was gone

It is a true death[2]

The son is miserable

Recognizes he would be better off

serving in his father’s household

This “prodigality”, Capon says

“Is the realization he has no claim on personhood”

But when he was far off

The father sees him

Has compassion and ran

Fell upon him

The father sees the corpse of the son

The dead man walking

and goes to him.[3]

There is complete utter helplessness

Walking towards the father

Nothing is left

All is lost

The son is an empty shell of a human being

So God Fills

The son with love

The father gives resurrection



God loves

And God forgives

And because

And I quote

“because raising dead sons [and daughters] to life and throwing fabulous parties for them is [God’s] favorite way of spending an afternoon, he proceeds straight to hugs, kisses, and resurrection.”


What we discover is that it

Is not the son’s realization

In the pig pen that he could do better

Or his returning

Or his confession

That gets him A new life

and forgiveness

Let me turn to Capon here

He writes:

“Confession is not a medicine

leading to recovery”

Because recovery from sin

Is not possible

Paul says

“I do the things I do not wish to do.”

You see if we could

Confess our way

Into new behavior

And then be all better tomorrow

Then we would

Just say we were sorry…

And it would all be done.

Confession is not


The Gospel of Jesus

Reminds us

“we never recover.”

We are powerless

We understand we are dead

And that only a power greater than ourselves can

save us

and give us life

We have faith

And we turn our lives

Over to God in Christ Jesus

The only reason

We get life out of death

In this world and the next

Is because

We stop trusting

In our own ability

To earn it

And start

Trusting in

The father’s love

To give it

Confession is not a transaction

Not a negotiation

In order to secure forgiveness

It is the last gasp of death

The realization that we are helpless

To change

Confession is

The realization that

We are The walking dead


Here then comes the banquet

Of the fatted calf

(Which is a parallel for

The lamb that was slain – in cased you missed it)

The banquet that is in all the parables before

The banquet where all are invited



Everyone comes

And a good time

Was had by all!


Well most everyone


We must deal with the older son

Who says


This can’t be

This is unfair”


The parable of grace

Contains within it

A parable of judgment afterall

the son doesn’t get it

he doesn’t know he is the walking dead

he holds onto the idea


Hard work

Righteous living

And faithful attendance

Is what gets you the father’s love

But…The fathers says to him:


You have always been with me

And all that I have is yours.

I gave it to you


I executed my will

I gave it to you when I died

Your brother got his

And you got yours

You are the head of the house -Not me

You could have done anything you wanted

You could have killed the calf

Had friends over

You could have met your brother

And resurrected him

But you have not

You have hardly lived

And you don’t even know you are dead[4]

Here you are

And you think this


Is living

The only reason that you can’t enjoy the feast

Which you are missing

Is because in the end

you have chosen

To pretend that this life of death

is worth trying to live

And if you create enough rules about righteousness

And then you follow them

You will save yourself

If you can’t figure out you are dead already

And join the party

There is very little hope for you

So stop moping

Your bringing us down, man

Accept your inability to save yourself

And come to the party[5]



Jesus is telling us

Only works for the least and the lost and the dead

Capon concludes,

“At the last judgment

Nobody will be kicked out

for having a rotten life

Because [at that moment]

nobody there will have any life

but the life of Jesus

Jesus will say to all

[What the father says to the son]

You were dead and are now alive

You were lost and are found

Come inside”

I find it hard to imagine

On that day

In that moment

Faced with Jesus in front of us

That we will do anything but fall to our knees

Confess our death and go to the party

But there are always older sons and daughters

Who will refuse to believe

that god is that good

And they will sit out on the lawn

Or wherever that place is

“God seems to have a place for everything”

Capon quips


So rejoice

Your death is assured

And so is your resurrection

We are the bad sons and daughters

Of God

“Bad company

we can't deny

Bad company

Till the day we die”

luckily God loves

bad company

loved us

before we were in the womb

And, God loves

To feast

With reprobates just like you and me

[1] Robert Farrar Capon, Parables of Judgment and Grace, 280ff

[2] the word used here is ten ousian –  which means being substance Ibid, 284.
[3] Ibid, 285
[4] Ibid, 287
[5] Ibid, 288

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Proper 18C / Pentecost +13 / September 4, 2022

You have given us, O God, your only Son, our dearest treasure, and he has challenged us to give our all if we would be disciples. Let the extravagance of your gift call forth from us a love beyond cost or measure; let your Son’s self-sacrificing death urge us to carry our cross each day and follow in his footsteps. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Luke 14:25-33

"This passage offends against the values which most people hold dear."
"First Thoughts on Year C Gospel Passages in the Lectionary" Pentecost 16, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

"On one hand, Jesus makes it very difficult to be his disciple. It will cost us everything and we need to know the cost before 'jumping' in. On the other hand, Jesus may be making it impossible to be his disciple on our own abilities? When we confess, 'I can't,' then we are open for God's 'I can.'"
Exegetical Notes by Brian Stoffregen at CrossMarks Christian Resources.

"And finally let him preach this overwhelming of tragedy by comedy, of darkness by light, of the ordinary by the extraordinary, as the tale that is too good not to be true because to dismiss it as untrue is to dismiss along with it that catch of the breath, that beat and lifting of the heart near to or even accompanied by tears, which I believe is the deepest intuition of truth that we have."
"Sharing Your Faith," "Onesimus," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

We find Jesus in the midst of a large crowd. Crowds now seem to be following him in every lesson. Jesus is pressing forward towards Jerusalem and preaching a prophetic message of what it means to follow him.  Along the way, he is doing deeds of power.

We have just finished the wedding banquet parable. Again, as in last Sunday’s lesson, we are challenged not to seek our own place at the table, but rather after having been welcomed and invited to the higher seat, Jesus is challenging us to be host in the reign of God.

The crowds mentioned in this gospel are the poor and a mixed company of people following Jesus' band and merchants selling their wares, all accompanied by the poor and those who are begging for alms.

Jesus speaks clearly about the nature of discipleship. When one embarks on discipleship and chooses to participate in building up the reign of God, restoring the world, changing lives, ministering to the outcasts, one is becoming a dividing presence. When we choose to undertake the outlandish and over the top mission of helping Jesus transform the world through evangelism, mission, and outreach we will automatically begin to feel the pressure of being different.

Surely, we know this to be true as the first disciples and followers of Jesus found themselves in divided households. Jesus’ mission is unity! But there is a cross to be carried for striving for such a unified kingdom.

When Jesus says we need to consider the cost to one’s own life, literally he means one’s own soul. We are to bear our own cross. We must personally accept our role as followers, personally count the cost (as in the tower builder) and set off on the journey.

As we near Jerusalem Jesus is challenging us to follow, but be clear and honest with your self about the cost of this journey.

Luke Timothy Johnson ends his review of this passage with a very clear picture of this Gospel passage:

The parable of the banquet and the demands of discipleship together make the same point: the call of God issued by the prophet must relativize all other claims on life. The parable shows how entanglement with persons and things can in effect be a refusal of the invitation. The demands make clear that the choice for discipleship demands precisely the choice against a complete involvement in possessions or people. There is little that is gentle or reassuring in this. But as the final saying on salt suggests, any mode of discipleship that tries to do both things, tries to be defined both by possessions and by the prophet’s call, will be like salt without savor, fit for nothing much. “It is tossed out.” (Luke, 233)

I cannot reflect on this passage without wondering: what are the financial and spiritual issues that we as a church spend our time on that keep us from the work of mission and evangelism? Have we gotten so tied to our own stuff that we are seeing our participation in the kingdom work slip away? Are we really ready to put down the saber aimed at one another for the sake of the Gospel? We have become so accustomed to transferring and projecting our individual angst and political agendas at one another we are missing Christ passing through our community offering us the opportunity to follow?

I think there is an even more personal question we must ask? Are we as individuals who minister on behalf of Christ spending our time on kingdom work?

This will be a challenging week for preachers. Yet it is a time to raise our heads and our voices, to pick up our personal cross (instead of showing others what cross they should be bearing) and follow Jesus.

Some Thoughts on Philemon 1-21

"And finally let him preach this overwhelming of tragedy by comedy, of darkness by light, of the ordinary by the extraordinary, as the tale that is too good not to be true because to dismiss it as untrue is to dismiss along with it that catch of the breath, that beat and lifting of the heart near to or even accompanied by tears, which I believe is the deepest intuition of truth that we have."
"Sharing Your Faith," "Onesimus," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.

"Philemon can be a challenge from the perspective of preaching."Commentary, Philemon 1:1-21, Holly Hearon, Pentecost +15, Preaching This Week,, 2010.

"Paul's humble, gentle, and loving demeanor as manifest in his letter to Philemon should also reminder us to behave likewise in our own relationships"
Commentary, Philemon 1:1-21, Christian A. Eberhart, Pentecost +16, Preaching This Week,, 2013.

So let me simply begin by saying that given our American history of slavery that things would have been made a whole lot easier for Christians if Paul had not sent brother Philemon back.  But he does. And, the church leaders of the first to the third centuries did not wrestle with slavery as we did and they gave no thought to the inclusion of this text in our bible.  That all being said, I wonder is there anything redeeming here in this text?  Is it even possible for Americans to read the text and find a bit of good news?  I believe so.  However, to do so we must clearly state that there is a "shadow" side to the text; one in which humanity in its sinfulness has used to defend its right to exploit and dehumanize others.

George D. Armstrong defended slavery and wrote in 1857: Paul sent back a fugitive slave, after the slave’s hopeful conversion, to his Christian master again, and assigns as his reason for so doing that master’s right to the services of his slave. A Presbyterian minister and graduate of Princeton he wrote a document entitled: The Christian Doctrine of Slavery.

What is important and interesting though is that Albert Barnes, a noted theologian and supporter of the abolitionist movement used Philemon in this way:  The principles laid down in the epistle to Philemon…would lead to the universal abolition of slavery. If all those who are now slaves were to become Christians, and their masters were to treat them ‘not as slaves, but as brethren,’ the period would not be far distant when slavery would cease. In his famous 1852 oratory, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?", Frederick Douglass quoted Barnes as saying: "There is no power out of the church that could sustain slavery an hour if it were not sustained in it." (Corinthian Hall, Rochester. July 5, 1852)  Albert Barnes was also a Presbyterian and he taught theology at Princeton.  

Barnes like many others found redeeming qualities in this text and I believe they are worth a measure of our consideration.

If we are to understand the text we must be clear about Paul's overarching understanding of the Gospel.  Paul believes that Jesus has come to liberate us so that we may practice Christian liberty.  Paul's letters to the Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans makes this clear.  Paul believes we are bound by sin and that Christ has freed us that we may free others in his name.  It is Christ's faithfulness and Christ's death that is the liberating action which frees us from a law which cannot possibly be sustained.  Instead, we are in bondage under the law and sin will lead to death. But because of the faithfulness of Christ and his sacrifice, we are given grace and are redeemed from the burden of the law and we are set free and liberated to act in a new way as sons and daughters of God.  In turn, we are bound to love one another.  We are to be slaves to one another in love. (Gal 5:13ff)  Christ's law is one of love in which we are bound to him and to one another.  

So it is that Paul writes and tells Philemon he has heard that he too is one who loves from obedience to Christ's law.  

Paul writes,  "I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus. I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love..." (Phil 1.5ff)

Paul then says that he is bold enough to call Philemon to do his duty which would be to let his brother Onesimus come and serve Paul.  But Paul chooses to appeal to him as a brother who is also bound to this love.  Onesimus is not to be a slave any longer, even though Paul is sending him back to Philemon, instead he is to be Philemon's brother.  Philemon is to release Onesimus from bondage because Philemon is a Christian and is a follower of the Christ who frees all those who are enslaved.  Paul asks Philemon to do this, to give Onesimus and Paul this benefit.  He asks him to do it out of Philemon's obedience to Christ.  Paul concludes by reminding Philemon that all followers of Christ are slaves to Christ, are bound to Christ, not in a spirit of legal servitude but in a spirit of liberating love.

Reading the text with eyes to see Paul's gospel message changes everything.  Jesus has freed us all and in following him we are at liberty to free others.  

Perhaps this Sunday we might do a little freeing of Philemon from its poor reputation.  Maybe we might redeem it by remembering how the abolitionist used the text.  Maybe someone might hear a little grace and be set free from those things that bind them.  That may, in the end, be most of what people are looking for...a little bit of freedom.

Some Thoughts on Jeremiah 18:1-11

"This glimmer of hope, however faint, that no matter how bad things get the possibility for good remains, is the reason why for generations people return to Jeremiah and his story of the potter and the clay."
Commentary, Jeremiah 18:1-11, Alphonetta Wines, Pentecost +16, Preaching This Week,, 2013.

"In this week's Old Testament lection, God invites Jeremiah to enter a potter's shed and there observe the potter working with clay, so that Jeremiah may better hear God's words (Jeremiah ...."
Commentary, Jeremiah 18:1-11, Anathea Portier-Young, Preaching This Week,, 2016.

Oremus Online NRSV Old Testament Text

Here this Sunday we have the great image of God as a potter and the people of Israel as God's special clay. Jeremiah speaks out:

2“Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel.4The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him. 5Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

Jeremiah is clear that the people's deliverance from the onslaught that is before them is completely in their hands. God will either allow or not allow the calamity but it is specifically based upon their own actions. If they continue to ignore the poor among them, if they continue to heap up religious taxes and regulations upon the people, then the nation of Israel itself shall have to fall in order to be remade.

Again, Jeremiah writes:
7At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. 9And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.
Jeremiah is thus sent to the people to tell them that like a potter who may have to begin again God is pondering not standing in the way of the invading Assyrian armies that even now stand at their gates. Reminiscent of Abraham who leads the people be given a second chance, God himself says repent and turn from your evil ways and there may yet be hope for this pot. 

For Jeremiah, God is a God of grace who deeply wishes to spare the hand of defeat and to see a people who remember their God and his deliverance, and who do the just and righteous work of caring for the least and lost. But if they do not then calamity awaits, and a second version of the pot will have to be remade. 

In some ways, the message is clear for us today too. Until we accept our fallenness and our brokenness God cannot remake us. As long as we continue to pretend our cisterns and pots and plates will be cracked, chipped, and broken. The truth is they already are and are deeply in need of remolding. The problem is our hard-headed and stiff-necked determination to believe that we are just fine and can do all of this without any help from God - thank you very much. Even now our defeat is clear, our death is imminent, we just refuse to see it. Yet God waits, god stays his hands, the temple of our self-perpetuating religion and house of self-worship will come tumbling down, and then there shall be Jeremiah's God ready to rebuild, remake and remold us. 

Falling is always our own. The suffering is always brought on by our sin-sick ways. But our resurrection, rebirth, and remaking is God's. It has always been so it will always be so. God is the one who raised Jesus after first raising Israel out of Egypt and will, in the end, be the one who raises us.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Proper 17C / Pentecost +12 / August 28, 2022

Not for a place of honor did your Son come among us, O God of the lowly, but to invite to the wedding feast the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. Let such humility grace our table and lead us to renounce the quest for power and privilege. Taking our place with other sinners, we may share the banquet your Son has prepared for those who place their trust in your grace alone. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Luke 14:1-14

"True humility doesn't consist of thinking ill of yourself but of not thinking of yourself much differently from the way you'd be apt to think of anybody else. It is the capacity for being no more and no less pleased when you play your own hand well than when your opponents do."

"Humility," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.

"Giving great honor to those who are distinguished. Ignoring those who are ordinary or 'defective.' Seating charts that are set up to emphasize the high status of some and the lower status of others..."

Commentary, Luke 14:1, 7-14, Jeannine K. Brown, Preaching This Week,, 2010.

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

I have a friend who likes to say, “The reason Jesus was killed is he ate with sinners.” It always strikes me as a shocking thing to say. I believe it challenges me because I don’t like to think on a day today
basis that in America we have a class system. I was listening to a podcast interview this summer on the Economist and these two British citizens and businessmen were commenting on this very thing. They engaged in a conversation about how in America there does not seem to be a class system and there is a lot of discussion about an egalitarian society. However, they said there is, it is just difficult to see. I mentioned this to a friend and priest and we had a long discussion about the matter and he said something I had not thought of before. He commented on the fact that Americans are able to purchase anything. A member of the middle or lower-middle class, even some of the lower classes can wear the clothes the rich wear; they can eat at the restaurants the rich eat in. He said this gives the false idea of a level playing field and makes money the central commodity in the system that moves you up and down. Therefore your class is established essentially based upon your longevity to afford any particular lifestyle; whether you can afford it for an hour at a fine dining establishment or a weekend in a posh resort.

Jesus has some different ideas about how the system should work. He is challenging and teaching a very radical thing; radical enough that they killed him for it and perhaps so radical that it is hard for us to reconcile ourselves to his lifestyle.

So our passage begins with Jesus at a meal with the Pharisees. We might remember that this sect within the Jewish household has a number of boundaries and policies if you are to be a member; chiefly among these is the rule governing who you can be seated at a table with.

A man appears who is suffering from what we call today edema, or the swelling caused by excess fluid. Jesus has been really at odds with the establishment regarding healing on the Sabbath and he brings it up here in relationship to this man. So, first, we note it is the Sabbath. Second, we must see that this man who is obviously a sinner because of his illness has entered into the midst of their supper and threatens to contaminate them all. The Pharisees are silent.

Jesus teaches on the importance of the Godly commandment to love neighbor and we can easily see the themes of the Abrahamic family running through his thoughts on the child or an ox. We are reminded perhaps of the untying of the mule last week and the daughter of Abraham. Jesus continues in Luke to teach that they are hypocritical when they publicly hold one doctrine clearly for the use of power and authority and separation and division of the family when privately they allow or make room for behavior which contradicts their public word and action.

We are then told a short illustration, almost a parabolic type of teaching, about being invited to the wedding feast.

Jesus says we are to invite the poor with the knowledge they can never repay what is given.  Is this not another way of describing the grace we receive from God? Are we not the poor who receive everything from the grace of Jesus Christ which makes us rich? Instead of class, or money, or any other system defining us we are defined purely by the gift of life and the gift of reconciliation to God and one another by Jesus Christ.

As Luke Timothy Johnson points out, Jesus is challenging all of our conventional patterns of transactions. (Luke, 227)

We might typically see this passage as a call to change our service and outreach to the poor. Indeed it certainly is that. However, it is also a challenge to see more deeply the gap which lies between those we believe are ok to go to church with and those Jesus is inviting into the community, in point of fact inviting to come to the table with us and full members of the family of Abraham.

Are we really willing to give someone else our place at the table? Can we hear Jesus say:  “Behold, here is ____________. Are you willing to help me get his life out of the ditch? If so, give him your place at the table.”

Wow! I am challenged by this idea in more ways than one can imagine. I wonder what name or type of person I might put in this blank?

Until the church can answer Jesus’ challenge honestly, and then do the opposite of what is expected we will forever be limited in our mission, in our evangelism, in discerning God’s imagination, and in seeing the kingdom of God for what it is!

Some Thoughts on Hebrews 13:1-16

"Hebrews 13 can read like a list of rules -- do this and don't do that -- but it also includes some vital and enduring theological truths."
Commentary, Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16, Amy L.B. Peeler, Preaching This Week,, 2016.

"These few verses offer us snippets of what Christian community meant. It wasn't a holy huddle of worshippers scared for their lives and totally obsessed with religious rituals. It was a community which expressed and shared love and in that context praised God - obviously because God is a God who reaches out in love and compassion."
"First Thoughts on Year C Epistle Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 15, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

"Hospitality quickly takes on earthy dimensions buildings, beds, and blankets, pots and pans as we share our place, make use of what is available, or create new places. How can we sustain personal, small-scale places of welcome along with more institutionalized expressions of care?"
"Building a Place for Hospitality," Christine D. Pohl, (other resources at)"Hospitality," Christian Reflection, The Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University, 2007.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews invites the reader to consider what work might result as a response to the faith of Israel and faith in Jesus Christ? This passage is almost an ethical view of what Christian community is supposed to look like.  It is first and foremost to be a community of love. 

Love from Christ and in Christ will lead to certain actions by the individual follower of Jesus and the community that bears his name. 

  1. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
  2. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. 
  3. Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. 
  4. Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” 
  5. Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 

It is unlikely that these were the qualities of every first-generation Christian community.  Nevertheless, it gives a good view of what the author believes should be the qualities, and in some manner, it reflects what the first apostles and leaders of the church thought were key elements within the first few centuries.  These are also the five categories that repeatedly show up in ethical New Testament writings and the writings of the Church theologians.  These are if you will the core and guiding principles of ministry in the fledgling church.

The author then reminds us of the unchanging nature of God.  That we are to continually return to God as revealed in Jesus Christ for our direction.  Moreover that in following this Christ we are to make our following as a response to grace.  

Rules and regulations will not bring us to the altar of grace, only Christ does that.  

Here then the author provides an understanding of the paschal feast and Christ as the true sacrifice and mediator between humanity and God. 

The author writes:  "We have an altar from which those who officiate in the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood."  We see within this text not only a developed understanding of a grace-filled community, norms born out of the grace of forgiveness, but we also see a more fully developed understanding of the paschal mystery which is Christ's offering of himself.

What shall our response be to this God who reaches out to us? How shall we make an offering of gratitude to this God? The author writes: "Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God."

Some Thoughts on Jeremiah 2:4-13

""For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13 NRSV). ..."
Commentary, Jeremiah 2:4-13, Anathea Portier-Young, Preaching This Week,, 2016.

"Our priests, our teachers, our leaders, even our prophets from whom we need and expect correction, have too often fallen into the traps of ignorance and self-serving."
"Stupid Is as Stupid Does," John C. Holbert, Opening the Old Testament, 2013.

"Even now, despite a multitude of sins of omission and commission, God will not give up on Israel. Even now, there is hope for the nation."
Commentary, Jeremiah 2:4-13, Alphonetta Wines, Preaching This Week,, 2013.

A bit about the Sinai prophetic tradition: The tradition is rooted in the covenant that is made with the people of God after God's deliverance of them from Egypt. God's covenant was made as a response to God's mercy and freedom. So the idea here is that the people are to respond to God's love and freedom.

What Jeremiah and the other Sinai prophets must contend with is that the centralization of faith in Jerusalem has caused them a problem. They are now seeing that the core of the Sinai tradition has been flipped. The religious leaders of Mount Zion now ask that the people be faithful in order to receive God's love, mercy, and freedom. The Zion temple faith has reversed the Sinai tradition. Here is Jeremiah's focus.

Jeremiah focuses then first in our passage on the acts of God. God questions:
O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. 5Thus says the Lord: What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves? 6They did not say, “Where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that no one passes through, where no one lives?” 7I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruits and its good things. But when you entered you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination. 8The priests did not say, “Where is the Lord?” Those who handle the law did not know me; the rulers transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after things that do not profit.
 Jeremiah prophesies and is clear that the religious leaders have left far behind the practices and relationship God and the people proclaimed in the covenant at Sinai. So God "accuses" the religious leaders for forgetting. It is as if the people have changed their god and now worship some completely different God.
Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for something that does not profit. 12Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the Lord, 13for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.
Jeremiah offers a vision of what the people have done. The God who is freedom, mercy, love, and forgiveness offers living water. But what the people have done is create a new religious order whereby the people make their own casks and cisterns and they will not work and they will fail. Furthermore, the religious leaders who help the people build these extravagant ways not only lead the people away from the real God they also create a system by which they will all die from thirst.

Here we see then as Christians that God in Christ Jesus is the God of Jeremiah, both of the living water, but amongst the people, and releasing them from the new religious bondage under which they are suffering.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Proper 16C / Pentecost +11 / August 21, 2022

O God, the source of all health: So fill my heart with faith in your love, that with calm expectancy I may make room for your power to possess me, and gracefully accept your healing; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer, 461

Some Thoughts on Luke 13:10-17

"God's focus is not self-aggrandizement as it is with so many who have power and wealth and want to keep it, but generosity and giving, restoration and healing, encouraging and renewing."
"First Thoughts on Year C Gospel Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 14, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

"It is the synagogue leader who calls Jesus' actions "healing" (therapeuo in v. 14 twice) -- and thus a "work". He doesn't see it as the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy of releasing from bondage -- or a re-enactment of the Exodus journey from slavery to freedom."
Exegetical Notes by Brian Stoffregen at CrossMarks Christian Resources.

"Both themes of praise and rejoicing are emphasized by Luke as appropriate responses to God's work in Jesus (e.g., 7:16) the one who brings the reign of God in healing power to those who most need it."
Commentary, Luke 13:10-17, Jeannine K. Brown, Pentecost +13, Preaching This Week,, 2010.

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

It is an easy thing to read this passage and to wander off into the strong political imagery of the woman in relationship to those who have power over her. I think we cannot help but wonder about the
relationship between the woman and the ruler of the synagogue. Indeed, as I read many commentaries I was struck by the emotional and convicting imagery of the bent-over woman, possessed by powers, struggling for 18 years and the knowledge that one of the powers that kept her down must have been the hard fist of the religious system of the day. It would not have favored her and in fact, in her healing begins to work against Jesus who frees her from the oppression. As I reread the passage, I began to ask myself am I missing something?

The first piece of information that seems central to this passage is that our reading does not include the whole pericope. We begin this section of Jesus’ teachings with warnings to repent. We see that Jesus is answering the age-old question about God and the manner in which God works in the world. The question: Did God make the tower fall on the eighteen people at Siloam? The answer is no, but it is also that everyone should be ready for the coming of the kingdom. We know that Jesus believes the reign of God was imminent; if not already present as he himself was present. So, Jesus is being clear: be ready. The time to follow is now!

Jesus then gives the parable of the man who saves the fig tree but for a little longer seeking to care for it and to nurture it into bearing fruit. This is an important image because it helps us to understand perhaps how Jesus sees his own ministry. He is the one, spare them but a little longer, let us fertilize and tend to our creation.

So, we come to our text for this Sunday. Here we are told that there is a woman present who has weak. She is possessed according to the Greek. She has been this way for 18 years; notice the connection between her years of possession and the number of people in Siloam that died. Jesus sees her and he frees her. This is done as are all the works of Christ to glorify God.

We are told that the ruler of the synagogue was irritated. Instead of addressing Jesus directly he triangulates the crowd to his cause and raises their ire against the prophet.

Jesus reacts promptly. He tells them that everyone frees even their work animals on the Sabbath and that humans, especially this woman who has been as tied up by the devil, surely deserves her freedom – Sabbath or not.

Notice though too that he calls her a “daughter of Abraham.” She is a neighbor. Like Zacchaeus who is called the “son of Abraham,” she is part of the family; part of the deuteronomistic family of God. Paul calls those in Antioch “sons of the family of Abraham (Acts 13:26). Our prayer book describes the church as the family of God. We are all the inheritors of this designation and as such are free from bondage.

Jesus is connecting clearly the freedom of Israel with the freedom of this woman from her possession. Jesus is offering us a very key understanding of the work of the reign of God and that is to free those who are imprisoned, to proclaim release of the captives. To bring the family of Abraham out of the bondage this keeps it from bearing fruit into a new era of mission. Sabbath here is intimately connected with the work and by the work, of freedom making. The Sabbath is a day of rest; it is a day of proclamatory rest from the bondage of evil, sin, and death.

The crowd rejoices and the opponents are put to shame says the scripture.

This miracle of freedom is one of the signs that play on the great mosaic and messianic themes running through Luke’s Gospel. Jesus is not only the great prophet offering a vision of the reign of God; Jesus is the great deliverer who will bring us out of the land of suffering into a new life of freedom. Here in this story Luke is playing on the powerful images, showing his reader who Jesus is and what our response is to be. We are to see the great signs. Unlike last week's scripture, we are to know the signs of the seasons and the signs of the son of man. We are to see and respond. Luke Timothy Johnson reminds us (Luke, 215) that it is possible that “the woman’s standing to glorify God will remind us of the saying about the return of the Son of Man in 21:28: ‘when these things begin to happen, stand up straight, lift up your heads, for the time of your liberation has come.’”

I can see that in different contexts both messages (the justice and the missionary) will be important. So we might reflect and ask these questions of ourselves: On this Sunday will our proclamation be that the woman is freed and so we are free? Or, will we say “see this is the Christ, come and follow, bear fruit, and make a way in the wilderness so that others may be free”?

Some Thoughts on Hebrews 12:18-29

We continue to read Hebrews this week.  The author has been telling the readers that the people of Israel have been responding to this creator God.  Their faithfulness has led them on a great adventure with this God and this God has done great things through them. These people are our faith ancestors.  So this week the author offers a view into the nature of this God.  

The author writes, "You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them."  These words remind the reader that this God is completely unlike us. This God is wild and is known in and among the wild things.  This God is terrific, terrifying, and powerful.

This is a God who promises to shake the foundations!  "At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, 'Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.'"

It is this God's people and this God's kingdom in which we reside. It is this God whom we follow. This is the God who shakes our foundations and offers us life and life abundantly is a realm that cannot be shaken.  It is to this God that we worship and offer lives and ministry. It is this God who consumes us through his love. It is this God who sets our hearts on fire because of his love.  This is indeed a terrifying love.

Paul Tillich wrote a wonderful little book entitled: Shaking the Foundations which I have enjoyed.  He writes:

"How could the prophets speak as they did?  How could they paint these most terrible pictures of doom and destruction without cynicism or despair?  It was because, beyond the sphere of destruction, they saw the sphere of salvation; because in the doom of the temporal, they saw the manifestation of the Eternal.  It was because they were certain that they belonged within the two spheres, the changeable and the unchangeable. For only he who is also beyond the changeable, not bound within it alone, can face the end.  All others are compelled to escape, to turn away.  ...For in these days the foundations of the earth do shake.  May we not turn our eyes away; rather see, through the crumbling of a world, the rock of eternity and the salvation which has no end!" (Tillich, p. 11)

Michael C. Jackson (whose works I was introduced to by reading Margaret Wheatley's The New Science) in his text Systems Approaches to Management writes, "The things we fear most in organizations - fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances - need not be signs of an impending disorder that will destroy us. Instead, fluctuations are the primary source of creativity."  (Wheatley p. 19-20 as cited in Michael C. Jackson (2000) Systems Approaches to Management. p. 77)

What is present in this ancient text is a vision, an artifact of truth, that somehow the world is one of complex potential always renewing, growing, dying, birthing, and shaking.  It is a creation that at the same time holds within itself the eternal and the future.

Some Thoughts on Jeremiah 1:4-19

Last week we heard from Isaiah, in Jeremiah's time the prophecies come to pass.

Isaiah has been appointed for the special mission of prophesying against the religion on Mount Zion and its leaders. 

In this passage we hear that Jeremiah is specially and specifically called to this vocation:
5Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 6Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you, 8Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” 9Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth.
Here is something very important to understand about Jeremiah (And I lean on Levenson in his book Sinai and Zion pp 180ff here) - he was part of the Sinai prophetic tradition. Jeremiah was one of the priests in Anathoth. Now here is the story... the Sinai shrine at Shiloh (one of the most ancient and powerful shrines of the Sinai tradition) was destroyed after its priests supported the wrong king - Adonijah over and against Solomon. Solomon punished the line of Eli which led to Jeremiah. So while the great high priest at the Temple mount succeeded, the shrine was destroyed and the priests and their lineage including now Jeremiah were lost. That is until now.

Jeremiah then resurrects the prophetic Sinai tradition over and against a centralized dynasty in Israel. He reminds the religious institution of his day that God dwells in the midst of the people and that they are invited to partake as members of God's family. They do not own the rights to the religion and should be very careful of thinking they are somehow protected by throwing around God's name.

Jeremiah tells us that God has given him the God's spirit to speak truth to the powers that be and to the religious institution:

8Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” 9Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. 10See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
God invites the prophet to speak out loud what he sees and to speak the truth about the centralized religion of the day. Jeremiah speaks:

I see a branch of an almond tree.” 12Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”13The word of the Lord came to me a second time, saying, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a boiling pot, tilted away from the north.” 14Then the Lord said to me: Out of the north disaster shall break out on all the inhabitants of the land. 15For now I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, says the Lord; and they shall come and all of them shall set their thrones at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its surrounding walls and against all the cities of Judah. 16And I will utter my judgments against them, for all their wickedness in forsaking me; they have made offerings to other gods, and worshiped the works of their own hands. 
With these words and the passages that will follow Jeremiah sets out upon a mission to preach against the religion who centralizes faith, heaps up codes and requirements upon the people, which rob the people of wealth and who in the end hang a millstone around the least, and lost, and hungry's neck.

God is clear with Jeremiah, he is to give the faith of Israel back to the people and break the back of the oppressive religion. God for God's part will not stand in the way of the armies that are to come, who will bring the reign of man who acts like a God down reminding them this is not their home, nor their place, nor their wealth - but it is God's and meant to be shared to and benefit all of God's people.