summer solstice!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Easter 2A

Easter is 50 days

Easter is 50 days, 7x7, a weeks of weeks; "7" is the number of perfection in Hebrew numerology. The day of Pentecost is the 50th day of Easter. The prefix "pent" means 50: pentagram, pentagon, etc.

Day of Resurrection is:

• 1st day of the week, day after the Sabbath, therefore, the 1st day of creation.

• 8th day of the week = 1st day of a new week; therefore, the day of a new creation

Bright Week, the week after Easter Sunday just ended. The church celebrates Bright Week as the 8th day if creation.

Many baptismal fonts have 8 sides (octagon) and demonstrate our baptism into the new creation, our baptism as a new creation In Jesus' death and resurrection.

Revised Common Lectionary – RCL

A couple of people have asked about the lectionary, so here's a very short rundown. We get our scripture readings from the revised common lectionary, "common" because most denominations use it—in common. That includes protestant mainline churches like the ELCA, UMC, PCUSA, Roman Catholic, some eastern and other Orthodox, some free churches such as baptists. Because the scripture selections are readings, hopefully they also are hearings.

The three-year cycle brings us a year that features each of the synoptic gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke. "Synoptic" means seen with a single eye, since their perspective is somewhat similar. The fourth gospel from John's community brings us a very different worldview. Each week the lectionary suggests four scripture passages:

1. usually from the Hebrew Bible, but during the fifty day season of Easter we hear from the Acts of the Apostles.

2. the psalm technically is not a reading, but our response to God's grace and good news. Sometimes referred to as "responsive psalm." Maybe you notice the choir and a cantor lead the psalm, and we always participate by singing the refrain?

3. from one of the epistles in the new testament

4. always from one of the four gospels.

John 20:19-31

19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." 26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." 27Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." 28Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" 29Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Every year on the second Sunday of Easter we hear John 20:19-31! This are accounts of two separate events. The first story happens on the evening of the day of Jesus' resurrection; the second a week later. Thomas sometimes gets called "doubting," but unbelieving or not-believing is closer to the perspective of John's community that recorded the gospel.

John is the gospel of abiding love! It starts with "in the beginning..." and tells us God "dwelt among us," pitched a tent, a tabernacle, a portable dwelling so God could travel around and be with us wherever we went. Jesus' high priestly prayer in John 17 describes Jesus' relationship with the Father, Jesus' desire to remain with us.

In John's gospel, sin is not so much transgression of or lack of conformity to the law of God as the Westminster Catechism describes sin, but a lack of abiding, a lack of trusting relationship with Jesus. And it's not only relationship and abiding with Jesus, but also with one another. The undisputed epistles of Paul have a similar sense of our being "in Christ," as he expresses it. For John's community and for Paul we move from being solitary isolated individuals to belonging within the body of Christ, not in an undifferentiated blob, but each of us bring unique gifts, make unique contributions.

Closed door, locked doors: Greek word is the same and basically means it's hard to get in. Fear again! "Fear of the Jews?" Those who killed Jesus, because after all, Jesus' disciples were Jewish. We find fear and related words hundreds of times in both testaments! Pastor Peg guessed maybe about 600 times! Just as Jesus went to find the spotless, Jesus seeks us out and finds us where we are.

Jesus bestows peace on his followers; this peace is not simply absence of conflict, but shalom, well-being, connectedness, integrity, etc.. We enjoyed a long discussion of passing of the peace during the liturgy , before we approach the Lord's table. Also how we need to extend that peace to stranger, newcomers, to everyone! "Neighborology" as we discussed last fall with Luke, Jeremiah, et al.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Transfiguration A

Matthew 17:1-9

1Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." 5While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" 6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid." 8And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."
Protestant Western Churches celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration on the last Sunday of the Epiphany season; most Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and some Anglican churches celebrate Transfiguration on August 06. Some celebrate it twice! This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday; next Sunday is the first Sunday in Lent. Transfiguration concludes what we can consider the first major portion of the church's year of grace that begins on Advent 1, continues with Christmas/Nativity, then to Name/Circumcision of Jesus; the Feast of the Epiphany; Baptism of Jesus... all these days concentrate on light, revelation, and on God as God of everyone, God for everyone.

For T-Fig we experience another Trinitarian theophany! Remember Baptism of Jesus? Remember words that include "phan"? Epiphany, Tiffany, Fantasy. Last week we talked about the many many "Holy Ordinary" events, places, and circumstances in scripture and in our own lives. With its location and the unusual happenings that swirl around it, this mountaintop Transfiguration is what we'd think of as a more typical, characteristic, not surprising (almost expected) manifestation of the divine. A class regular mentioned she didn't see HS/HG in the Matthew reading; I explained the cloud of the shekinah (a feminine noun in Hebrew) is a common OT sign of God's Spirit.

We did the classic explanation of mountains as places of revelation: Moses represents the Sinai Covenant / Law he received on Mount Sinai; Elijah received divine revelation on Mount Horeb and represents the Prophets. We receive God's fullest, most overwhelming self-revelation at Jesus' crucifixion on Mount Calvary. In his Great Commission from a mountain at the end of Matthew's gospel, Jesus promises to be with us forever and charges us to teach and baptize all nations.

Six days later may reference the Exodus 24:16 from today's first reading/hearing; Luke 9:28 tells us "now about eight ays after these sayings..." that can be approximately one week, or the 8th day / 1st day of the New Creation.

Transfiguration leans strongly into Lent. Interesting that Jesus tells his disciples to tell no one until after the resurrection [17:9]—that's a feature of Mark's gospel we call the "messianic secret." In his Transfiguration account, in Luke, Jesus – Moses and Elijah! – discuss Jesus' exodus or departure that he would accomplish in Jerusalem [19:31].

Friday, February 24, 2017

Epiphany 7A

Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18

1The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.

9When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God. 11You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. 12And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the Lord. 13You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. 14You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. 15You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. 16You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord. 17You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. 18You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Last week's first reading came from the Pentateuch book of Deuteronomy; again this week God speaks through Moses, this time with words recorded in the book of Leviticus that's also in the Pentateuch – or Torah – the first five books of the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible. These texts were part of the oral tradition before they got written down; the written words were a long time coming and happened probably during the Babylonian exile, or possibly while resettling Jerusalem after the exile. We need to remember the oral tradition is not the same as written-down words spoken aloud, but has a dynamic life of its own. This is the only reading from Leviticus in all three lectionary year! Probably no surprise, since most of the book rings true to its stereotype of mostly containing instructions for the sacrificial system and purity codes. Levites were the priests of the Jerusalem Temple.

This passage opens with God's command and God's promise: "You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy." God gave these instructions for covenantal life together to Israel while they still were transversing the desert wilderness, before they crossed the RIver Jordan into the Promised Land.

Discussion: What does "holy" mean to you?

Over the past few weeks in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's gospel we've heard Jesus' telling his followers they are blessed, how to be blessed. Jesus has been saying, and now these words from Leviticus back up Jesus as they describe how to be holy in the same way God is holy. Instructions in the passage are clear and self-evident, but almost everyone mentioned that many grocery stores and other retailers are leaving "gleanings" of food for food pantries and other distribution centers so food doesn't go to waste and more people have enough to eat. This pericope is about our behaviors and actions in covenantal community, in our lives together.

I mentioned perfect in Matthew 5:48 48, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect," is from telos the same Greek word that gives us teleological, goal-oriented, be the whole, integral, complete person God created you to be, and is far from post-enlightenment Western ideas of perfection.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Epiphany 6A

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

15See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
Taking a diversion and excursion away from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew to listen to God speaking through Moses in the book of Deuteronomy from the Pentateuch, one of the Five Books of Moses. We've discussed Matthew's community's emphasis on Jesus' Jewishness, on Jesus as the New Moses, New King David. Last fall we had several readings from Deuteronomy that's in the covenantal tradition of the prophet Jeremiah who also was part of autumn's readings.

We haven't talked nearly enough about covenant; briefly, derived from co-venire (come together), covenant is about two or more parties coming together in agreement, with obligations on both sides—mutual dependence and mutual vulnerability. Scripture brings us a long list of covenants between God and humanity, from Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, to David. Jeremiah tells us about the New Covenant of grace God will bring in Jesus Christ. God covenants with us in baptism!

We often refer to the ten commandments God gave the people through Moses as the "Sinai Covenant." Deuteronomy is one long covenantal book! Deuteronomy mostly comes from the next to latest written Pentateuch source either from time of Babylonian exile or from post-exilic resettlement of Jerusalem—around when Huldah and Josiah rediscovered Torah? Or from both eras. In any case, the content long had been part of the oral tradition that we've discussed as not being the same as written-down words spoken out loud, but a way of transmitting words and ideas that has a dynamic life of its own.

We can consider Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew (Sermon on the Plain in Luke) an interpretation, spelling-out, exposition of the Ten Commandments, just as Jesus' birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension demonstrates the meaning of the Commandments. During Lent we'll study Luther's Small Catechism that starts out with the Commandments. We really only need the First Commandment,
I am the Lord your God who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage (so therefore!), you shall have no other gods before me.
The other nine commandments (as well as Jesus' birth, life, etc.) and the great commandment to love God, self, and neighbor clarify the first. The commandments are working papers that lay out boundaries and limits of attitudes, words, and actions of our life together in community, of our lives vis-à-vis the world out there when we physically leave the covenantal community of the church.

Last fall when we still were in Luke's lectionary year, immediately after Jesus pronounces the Great Commandment to love God, self, and neighbor, his disciples ask, "And who is my neighbor?" Then follows Good Sam about the guy who gets beaten up and left by the roadside to die on his way "down to Jericho." Amongst Luke, Jeremiah, and Deuteronomy, we talked some about neighborology, "the word about the neighbor."

When Jesus starts his Sermon on the Mount, he lines out blessings that we receive from certain behaviors and attitudes. Being blessed, happy, prosperous, shalom-filled isn't quite the same as the deep-welling joy we experiences as Christians, nor is it abundant money, success, and property as the world and as "prosperity gospel" people consider prospering. In today's Deuteronomy passage, Moses also speaks about being blessed.

LCM does extremely well welcoming everyone, including immigrants, refugees, and LGBTQ&c. persons; in some ways they don't need these words, yet as our guest preacher observed during our SS discussion, seemingly innocuous desirable goods and everyday behaviors carried to extremes can become gods, so we all need to be careful and observe our own behaviors and compulsions.

I commented on the Persian Patio that's a ring of yard chairs under an umbrella our office administrator arranges in the yard on Sundays so our Persian People (who have Farsi-language bibles we gave them) can have a gathering place to speak their own language and talk about their own concerns. Last week in SS I mentioned the late environmental theologian Sittler, who also was part of the devotions offered at Friday's Green Faith Team Meeting Interim Pastor and I serve on. I mentioned the dad of one of my former housemates/landlords was first president ever of LSTC, and Dr. Sittler frequently visited their home. Pulling this together, they chose Stewart Herman as seminary president because of his experiences and work with refugees in the World Council of Churches and for Lutheran World Relief. In other words, he'd help students and others learn about being a welcoming, diverse church without borders or boundaries.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Epiphany 5A

Matthew 5:13-20

13"You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14"You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

17"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
So far in Matthew's gospel: genealogy – birth – magi – Egypt – baptism by cousin John the Baptist – wilderness desert solitude and temptations – calls four disciples – beatitudes, "blessed" Sermon on the Mount as the New Moses

This week continues Jesus' sermon, homily, talk, discourse that describes righteous attributes or characteristics of his disciples. These qualities are gifts of grace, yet having them makes demands for our response: what we do because of who we are — God's Work / Our Hands

Everyone knows today's gospel reading well! It's about our being salt of the earth and light of the world; this is what and how people in the kingdom of heaven, reign of God, lifestyle of God, culture of heaven are and how they live.
Kari Jobe, We Are

"Every secret, every shame
Every fear, every pain
Lives inside the dark
But that's not who we are
We are children of the day

So wake up sleeper
Lift your head
We were meant for more than this
Fight the shadows, conquer death
Make the most of time we've left.

We are the light of the world
We are the city on the hill
We are the light of the world
We gotta let the light shine.
Let the light shine
Let the light shine."

As Wendell Berry reminds us, "practice resurrection!"

Discussion about how a little salt goes a long way; how the flame of light from a small candle can fill a dark room. Mix it all up and add seasoning to life everywhere we go! The world needs us to help it be tasty and lit up!

Matthew 5:20 "Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and pharisees..."

Typically we give Pharisees a bad rap as self-righteous, legalistic, sanctimonious hypocrites overly concerned with irrelevant details that mattered not. In this context consider the pharisees as good citizen leaders who strove for justice in the community, who kept the commandments to the letter, did everything possible to make the world around them a better place.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Epiphany 4A

Matthew 5:1-12

1When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: 3"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11"Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Some features of Matthew's gospel include Jesus as the New Moses; Jesus as the new King David; an emphasis on the righteousness and justice of God that we find throughout the Hebrew Bible.

Today we'll look at the famous sermon (discourse, talk, homily) Jesus gave after he called his first four disciples.


• All four gospels include an account of Jesus' baptism by his cousin John the Baptist; Jesus' baptism was a public event that prepared him for public ministry.

• Our baptism in the context of worship is public and prepares us for the public witness to Jesus' death and resurrection.

Jesus' IPOs – Initial Public Offerings after his baptism:

• Matthew: calling four disciples and then preaching Sermon on the Mount as an example of Jesus as the new Moses

• Mark: casting out a demon /incubus

• Luke: reading Isaiah in synagogue and announcing he is the fulfillment of the Year of Jubilee; the people reject him, and almost throw him over a cliff

• John: Changing water into wine at the Wedding Ceremony at Cana, "grace upon grace upon grace"

Matthew and Luke both bring us this talk that includes characteristics or attributes of disciples or people who follow him. Matthew and Luke definitely tell about the same event that was passed along in the oral tradition with differing details, and recorded by each to make their own theological point.

We studied a printed handout of The Message version of this passage in Matthew, who brings us Jesus on the mountain or hill as a parallel to Moses receiving the ten commandments on Mount Sinai, and in Luke, who places Jesus on a level place, reflecting Mary's Magnificat/Hannah's song that promises God will raise up the lowly and bring down the mighty to create a world, or "lifestyle" of distributive justice, where no one has too much, no one has too little.

"Blessed, Happy" is not the deep well of joy we often reference and sometimes experience as Christians; blessed is a state of participation in the reign of heaven, lifestyle of God, of being fortunate, well-regarded by God. Blessed, happy is not consumer happiness as in "if I buy this tablet or take this trip I'll be happier;" "If I buy that tablet, take this trip, and buy those new dishes I'll be the happiest."

Luke's "trouble" in The Message, "woe" in some translations is the opposite of blessed / happy: sorrow, sadness, grief, oy veh.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Epiphany 3A

Matthew 4:12-23

12Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15"Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned."

17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

18As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. 23Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
So far in Matthew:

Genealogy / Jesus' birth / magi – astrologers – royalty from different religion, different part of the world show us Jesus and the gospel is for everyone everywhere / Joseph's dream that Herod plans to kill all baby boys under the age of 2 / Joseph, Mary, Jesus go to Egypt and live as refugees until Herod's death / Joseph, Mary, Jesus return to their own country and settle in Nazareth / John the Baptist baptizes Jesus in the Jordan River that for Israel formed the boundary and border between their old life of slavery and wandering in the desert and their new life of obedience in covenanted community in the promised land.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all bring us Jesus' temptations in the wilderness after his baptism. We read and hear those scriptures at the beginning of Lent that's a time of reflection for us.

Now we have Jesus' first act of public ministry according to Matthew.

Matthew emphasizes Jesus' connections with Moses, with David, with the whole people of God we meet in the Hebrew scriptures. Matthew 4:12-16 closely connects with today's first reading, Isaiah 9:1-4. Zebulun and Naphtali designate land God promised Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21), Isaac (Genesis 26:3), and Jacob (Genesis 28:13), showed to Moses (Deuteronomy 34:1-4), land Joshua assigned (Zebulun – 19:10-16; Naphtali –19:32-39). The ascriptions for the tribes of Israel in Genesis 49 tell us Zebulun dwelt by the sea and would be a haven for ships (49:13); Naphtali was a doe bearing lovely young fawns—a feminine image (49:21). These names frame land as God's gift on loan to humanity, as covenanted place and space. God tells us land is not alienable, not a "property" we can sell. Matthew's community recorded this gospel account after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, yet by the time Jesus got there, imperial Rome already occupied Capernaum. Rome controlled land and sea; Rome controlled every aspect of the local economy, of everyone's lives and livelihoods. For First Isaiah, Galilee of the gentiles referred to the area's ethnic diversity; by the time of Matthew's writing, "Galilee of the gentiles" also includes another Herod, Rome's puppet governor Herod Antipas.

Jesus has journeyed 80 miles from the site of his baptism! Capernaum was a backwater, working-class town, not a standard metropolitan statistical area.

We've met Jesus' cousin John the Baptist with his message "Repent! The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" Now Jesus repeats John's words, but Jesus is the embodiment of the Kingdom of Heaven—"the Reign of Heaven is here and now!"

Matthew says Kingdom of Heaven rather than Kingdom of God because of the Jewish proscription against speaking G-d's name. Kingdom can be reign, rule, sovereignty. We can speak about the empire of heaven! I like the concepts culture of heaven, lifestyle of heaven: during Jesus' time and during our time, a very different way of being and of acting than the typical usual mainstream amidst the imperial reign of the Roman Empire, in the midst of the imperial reign of trans-national corporations, controlled behind the scenes financial markets that favor the rich who will become "filthy rich," even amid the sometimes compelling imperial reign of consumerism. As happens with many colonials subjected, Jesus uses similar words and vocabulary to the dominant imperial cultures but gives them a new, subversive meaning.

Was this Jesus' very first encounter ever with the two pairs of brothers? Probably! Jesus' presence was so compelling and charismatic... and offered them an alternative, a different way of being and of living.

After calling both pairs of brothers as his first act of public ministry, "Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people." Jesus announced the reign of heaven; he told them and he showed them. As in most marginal economies, food was scarce under imperial Rome. People didn't always have safe, clean water. In a workforce dominated by physical labor, illness prevented people from working, further impoverishing them (well, of course!).

Both Matthew and Luke report John the Baptist in prison asking his followers to ask his cousin Jesus, "are you the one who is to come, or do we need to look for someone else?" Jesus replies, "Go and tell John what you see and here: blind see; lame walk; deaf hear; lepers get clean skin; dead get raised to new life; the poor have the good news of the gospel reached to them (that hopefully they can hear a lot better with their restored hearing).

Backtracking earlier in today's gospel text, Matthew picks up Isaiah's "the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned." We currently are in the season of epiphany within the church's year of grace. This section or installment of ordinary (ordered, structured) time emphasizes Jesus as light, as revelation to everyone everywhere, that reminds us Israel's God YHWH was God of all, God for all, not exclusively Israel's.

Discussion of sources and uses of light. You don't need much to see a lot! Even the glow of a single small candle can fill a very dark place. First light signals the start of a new day that will progressively become brighter. Us as light? We receive a lighted candle at baptism.