summer solstice!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent 1A

Isaiah 2:1-5

1The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. 3Many peoples shall come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 5O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!
All three advent lectionary year begin with a splash of apocalyptic, signaling the end of the world as we've known it. Revealing, uncovering, signs and wonders in creation, in the natural world. Today's apocalypse is a strangely interesting parable from Matthew 24.

We concluded the year of grace that ended last week with Reign of Christ / Christ the King with part of Melchior's song from Gian-Carlo Menotti's Ahmal and the NIght VIsitors:

The child we seek holds the seas and the winds on his palm.
The child we seek has the moon and the stars at his feet.
Before him, the eagle is gentle the lion is meek.

On love, on love alone will he build his kingdom...
His might will not be built on your toil.
Swifter than lightning he will soon walk among us.
He will bring us new life and receive our death.
And the keys to his city belong to the poor.

The first Sunday of advent opens wide a new year of grace. This new year does not begin with scriptural creation accounts! We hear Genesis 1 at the Easter Vigil during all three lectionary years and also onTrinity Sunday Year A, Baptism of Jesus Year B; the Day of Pentecost A, B, and C feature the creation account from Psalm 104.

The first advent, ad-venire, coming, or arrival of Jesus of Nazareth happened in Roman occupied territory after 700 years of enemies—Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Syria, Rome.

During this Advent 2016 we anticipate the infant Jesus' arrival into occupied territory: consumerism? military? wall street? social media? religion of excessive sports?

Blue, the color of hope, is the liturgical color for advent. Advent is a season of hope, and a time of repentance in the face of God's mercy-filled judgment.

During Matthew's RCL year A, the first readings for all four Sundays of Advent are from 1st Isaiah, Isaiah of Jerusalem, "the pre-exilic Isaiah," though the entirety of chapters 1 through 39 are not from the same author.

8th century contemporaries Isaiah of Jerusalem (2:2-4) and Micah 4:1-3 both include this passage.

Isaiah 1: violence, travesty, bribery, injustice, empty religious festivals, sacrifices, extravagances. Via Isaiah 1:17 God charges the people "Learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend, the orphan, plead for the widow."

All three Isaiah prophets bring us a wide world view with universalism that insists Yahweh is God of all, God for all. No more us and them!

Paradox is Zion was not the highest mountain, "the nations" were not caravanning to Jerusalem and Mount Zion. Also, God's people were not unique in considering their capital city the center of the world.

Isaiah 2:1"The word Isaiah ... saw." A visible word! Hebrew here is dabar that denotes both speech and action. Visible words? How about us? Sacraments, visions, dreams, paintings... advertising art!

Isaiah 2:3 "God of Jacob" – Genesis 28:13-15, Jacob's dream, Jacob's ladder: land, offspring, God's constant, abiding presence, homecoming.

Psalm 122 for today: 1I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the Lord!" 2Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Matthew: RCL A Intro

On the first Sunday of Advent the church begins a new year of grace; gospel scriptures for the year are mostly passages from Matthew.

Date

circa 80 - 90

Author

No indication of "Matthew" until the second century, but for discussion purposes we can assume followers of the apostle and tax collector Matthew similar to the way we consider the gospel according to John authored by the community that surrounded John the beloved disciple.

Sources

Matthew contains 90% of the verses in Mark, the earliest canonical gospel. (Luke contains about 50% of Mark.) Matthew and Luke both contain parallel, sometimes identical passages not found in Mark. Scholars still speculate there might have been a no longer extant written collection of Jesus' sayings, sometimes referred to as "Q", from the first word of the German Quelle—river or source. Matthew's community may have had a third written "M" source.

Language

Semitic Greek, or possibly Aramaic, the vernacular Hebrew Jesus spoke. Not really certain.

Setting

Greek-speaking Jewish Christians in Antioch in Syria, where they first called Jesus' followers Christian – Acts 11:28. That Antioch's now part of present-day Turkey.

World View, Content

Kingdom of Heaven rather than Kingdom of God

Concerned about fulfilling Hebrew Bible prophecies and predictions

Jesus as new Moses, new David, "son of David"

Matthew's genealogy goes back to Abraham, father of the Jewish nation

Visit of the Magi at Epiphany – God for the world. Scripture doe not say how many kings there were, but tradition has it at three.

Flight into Egypt – New Exodus

The only gospel that uses the word "ecclesia," and brings us some ecclesiology related to church order and structure. Ecclesis is the Roman city council, New England town meeting.

Before Jesus' resurrection Matthew calls God's people "Israelites"; after the resurrection he calls them Jews.

Great Commission – Gospel for the world

Five discourses, possibly to reflect structure of the Pentateuch, possibly presenting Jesus as a new Moses, the gospel as a new Torah.

(1) chapters 5–7
(2) chapter 10
(3) chapter 13
(4) chapter 18
(5) chapters 24–25

Parables unique to Matthew

• weeds among the tares of wheat
• the treasure
• the pearl
• the net
• the unforgiving servant
• the laborers in the vineyard
• the two sons
• the ten virgins

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Reign of Christ • Christ the King C

Culture of Christ, Lordship of Christ...

We began with a quick review of Luke's lectionary year C that we're concluding today.

Next Sunday with the first Sunday of Advent we begin a new year of grace that mostly will feature gospel readings from Matthew, (Revised Common) lectionary Year A. For today as we contemplate the King who reigns from a cross, for Nativity as we consider the fullness of the divine presence in the Bethlehem manger, a few lines from Gian-Carlo Menotti's one act opera Amahl and the Night Visitors.

The child we seek holds the seas and the winds on his palm.
The child we seek has the moon and the stars at his feet.
Before him, the eagle is gentle the lion is meek.

On love, on love alone will he build his kingdom...
His might will not be built on your toil.
Swifter than lightning he will soon walk among us.
He will bring us new life and receive our death.
And the keys to his city belong to the poor.
Colossians 1:11-20

11May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13He has rescued [exodus, a new deliverance, a new freedom from slavery] us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

The epistle or letter to Colossians – the church at Colossae – contains vocabulary, syntax, general style, and theological perspective that almost definitely is not from the pen of Saul of Tarsus / the apostle Paul. This first chapter brings us the pre-existent cosmic Christ who created everything, who was firstborn from the dead, who reigns over all creation. The Gospel according to John, the fourth canonical gospel, also has the pre-existent Christ: "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God."

The fullness of redemption, salvation, includes redeeming, restoring, and resurrecting all creation, not only human creatures.

John's gospel brings us Jesus' resurrection in a garden on the eighth day that's the first day of the new creation. The new garden of Eden evolves into a city!

Discussion of Jesus of Nazareth the Christ of God as the image of God. In John 14:19 Jesus tells us,"If you have seen me, you have seen the Father." The bible, the Book of Life, Good Book, shows us Jesus. What's an image? A mirror? According to the PCUSA'a Great Ends of the Church, the church is "the exhibition of the kingdom of heaven to the word." That's us! That's an image everyone can see!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Luke Summary

Instant reprise for next Sunday's last RCL Luke Year C SS class for 2016.

• We've journeyed together through another year of grace; this time we've enjoyed twelve months of gospel readings from the gentile physician Luke, with a few from John interspersed.

• Most likely Luke substantially compiled the two New Testament books of Luke and Acts (of the Apostles), though he drew upon sources other than memories of his own experiences and his own imagination. Luke includes about 50% of the exact content of Mark's gospel. Both Luke and Matthew probably had another document for the identical materials their gospels present. If that source ever existed it no longer is extant, but scholars sometimes refer to it as Q, from the first word of the German Quelle or river. There also may have been a document speculatively referred to as L for Luke.

• Luke opens his gospel with a political, geographical, social, historical introduction, and with [biblical number] seven witnesses—this really happened!

• These events really happened on planet earth, where creation not only is the physical setting: creation also acts and participates in history. Despite recent interest in the redemption, resurrection, and integrity of all creation – not solely human creatures – most teaching and preaching in the church still centers on humanity, which may not be all that off since for the most part creation needs restoration and resurrection because of human violence and neglect.

• We've discussed how Luke emphasizes women, people who are marginalized / underclass / outcast, history, prayer, the Holy Spirit, table fellowship, great reversals, aka "the upside-down kingdom."

• Among passages unique to Luke we have canticles or songs from Zechariah, Mary, and Simeon based on Old Testament hymns.

• Only Matthew and Luke bring us birth narratives; Luke's is the Sunday School kids' and cherub choir's "Going to Bethlehem" nativity account. Matthew and Luke both have genealogies; Luke's concludes with "Adam, son of God."

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Pentecost 26C

So Far in Luke

• Since Luke 9:16 Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem.

• 18:31 "We are going up to Jerusalem" where everything predicted about the Human One / Son of Man will happen on the third day he will rise from the dead. "We are going to Jerusalem" is all of us, too.

• Luke 19 in Jericho, just outside Jerusalem, by Mount of Olives. "Triumphant entry" with palms strewn all around and at Jesus' feet.

• 19:38 "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord" is from the Day of Atonement templet liturgy

• 19:39 pharisees tell Jesus to ask his disciples to stop praise and adulation

• 19:40 Jesus: "if these were silent, the stones would shout out!" unique to Luke

• 19:41 "as Jesus came near and saw the city Jerusalem, he wept over it" – evokes Jeremiah grieving over Jerusalem

• 19:45 then Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things. 46 "my house shall be a house of prayer; you have made it a den of robbers."

• 20:2 By what authority?

• 20:9-16 Parable of the Vineyard

• 20:17 stone builders rejoiced has become the cornerstone
Luke 21:5-19

5When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6"As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down." 7They asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?" 8And he said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, "I am he!' and, "The time is near!' Do not go after them. 9"When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately." 10Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. 12"But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.

We've almost completed another Year of Grace, all this year most of the gospel reading have been from St Luke. Next Sunday will be Christ the King / Reign of Christ as we hear about the king who reigns from a cross, arms wide open, forgiving and welcoming everyone into God's presence. On the following Sunday, Advent begins another new year of grace.

They're in Jerusalem; it's almost Holy Week. This account immediately follows the famous Widow's Mite story about the temple, a religious structure and system that has taken everything one of the most vulnerable members of society needs to live, literally stealing her life. This passage includes apocalyptic; we've mentioned apocalyptic means uncovering, revealing, unveiling, and is quite common in biblical and other literature. Apocalyptic often include images of nature out of control, strange beasts and supernatural beings. Basically it announces something's changing, this is the end of the world as we've known it. We need to remember Luke wrote this account after the destruction of the second Jerusalem Temple. Jesus had a strong sense of what would happen in the future, just as in terms of his own death he knew what usually happened to people who acted like God.

The temple was the sign and symbol of the presence of God. Constructed like temples of other religions, with a replica of the earth and heavens, a throne for the god to sit on, etc. Although the Jerusalem temple was massively huge, opulent, ornate, and filled several city blocks, it still was too small to contain the God of Heaven and Earth. This text and others remind us although structure and organization are humanly necessary, we need to focus on "what's really important" and on why those structure and organizations got put into place in the first place.

The alternate first reading for Pentecost 26C is from 3rd Isaiah. He wrote after the Babylonian exile and tells about Jerusalem a joy, God's people a delight. People planting and harvesting their own gardens in their own land. A vision of The Peaceable Kingdom—think of Edward Hicks' painting, Randall Thompson's music.
Isaiah 65:17-25

17For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. 19I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. 20No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. 21They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord— and their descendants as well. 24Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. 25The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Pentecost 23C

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

6As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

16At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! 17But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth. 18The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Brief recap: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, the "pastoral" letters attributed to Paul were not written by Saul/Paul of Tarsus, though some parts of the Timothy epistles reflect Paul's theology and bring us credible retrospective reflections on a life in ministry.

Vocabulary, grammar, syntax are not particularly Pauline. These letters bring us ecclesiology – the word about the church – with emerging church structure, instructions for officers, laying on of hands (ordination, consecration, commissioning). Famously we find instructions for women to dress modestly and be silent, assurance women will be saved by childbearing, demands that slaves obey their maters.

In Acts of the Apostles 17-20 we read a lot about the Paul – Timothy – Silas trio. Timothy, Paul's younger companion and sidekick, later became bishop of Ephesus.

Very not Paul are the references to immortality, which was a Greek-Hellenistic concept. Death and resurrection is the biblical one! In fact, for the apostle Paul, the gospel was death and resurrection. Good news!

4:6, poured out as a drink offering: The original readers would have known something about the wine/libation offered along with burnt offerings and peace offerings in the temple. This can reference Jesus' life and the lives of Jesus' followers poured out for the life of the world. Cup, chalice, also can mean one's calling, vocation, career, profession.

What is Pauline is how the Timothy letters incorporate Paul's convention of giving us mini-résumés / curriculum vitae. Also very Pauline is the emphasis on a life of faithful ministry that happened by grace, and not because of human effort. We also get cruciform imagery that brings us (thanks to Barbara's reminder last week) the vertical bar of the cross touching heaven to earth, earth to heaven, the horizontal bar of the cross connection all humanity and all creation with one another.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pentecost 22C

Intro / Backtracking

We're reaching the end of the church's year of grace. So far we've experienced Advent, the arrival of God incarnate in our midst as a tiny baby. Then onto Epiphany, the revelation of God's good news for all people everywhere. Jesus' baptism, his temptation in the wilderness, the start of Jesus' public ministry (different in all four gospels), on to Holy Week, Jerusalem, Jesus' death on Good Friday, through Holy Saturday – the day nothing happens but everything happens – then the surprise of Resurrection Sunday morning.

Easter is fifty days, a week of weeks! The day of Pentecost is the 50th day of Easter and initiates the particular reign of the Holy Spirit who brings sanctification, theosis (as the Eastern Churches describe it), divinization. We also call the season of Pentecost the time of the church.

During the green season of Pentecost we have incidents, parables, and stories from Jesus' life and ministry. Luke uniquely brings us the Waiting Father/ Prodigal Son / Older Brother that shows us God's reconciling embrace. The Good Samaritan also is unique to Luke and brings us the healing hands of God. During this part of the year of grace, we make another journey with Jesus to Jerusalem, to the cross.

Next Sunday will be another "after Pentecost," followed by Reformation Sunday, that's no longer quite solely a protestant commemoration and celebration. The following Sunday, All Saints, we especially remember the saints who have gone before us into the Church Triumphant. One more numbered Sunday after the day of Pentecost, and then it's Christ the King, Reign of Christ, when we acknowledge the sovereignty of the Crucified Jesus of Nazareth. This king reigns from a cross; with arms open and outstretched, he invites reprobate law-breakers into the divine presence. "Jesus, remember me." "Today you will be with me in Paradise."

Luke 18:1-8

1Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, "Grant me justice against my opponent.' 4For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, "Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.' " 6And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

Today Luke features a persistent widow and an unjust judge. How is the unjust judge like God? Not really, though we often try to uncover and discover parallels, metaphors (not to get too Bultmannian), and similarities in the biblical parables. Luke emphasizes vulnerable, marginalized people in his gospel: widows; orphans; foreigners; immigrants; women in general... no one was in a more precarious situation than a widow, esp if her late husbands didn't leave behind a brother for her to marry.

The widow prays to the judge. Did you know pray is a legal term? Answering George: this was not a religious court; it was a secular one, like going to the county courthouse. The judge ultimately wanted to protect his reputation; God does not care about protecting God's own reputation!

Upshot? Pray always, do not lose heart. Remember the heart primarily is the seat of the will in Hebrew biology. Was it a poster of a song that reminded us Love Takes Time?! God's – and humanity's – left-handed paradoxical power of love, mercy, compassion, and true justice is much slower than so-called right-handed of violent, forceful, death-dealing power.

I referenced the long and still ongoing struggle for Civil Rights in this country and the demise of the Soviet Union. l asked if the Monsanto powers that be will win or will prayer, letter-writing, peaceful demonstration, ultimately win the day?