summer solstice!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Pentecost 14C

Isaiah 58:9b-14

9Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 11The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. 12Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

13If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; 14then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;...
Earlier in Isaiah: Isaiah 58:1-9

notes and discussion

Since earth's population moved from Abram/Sarai // Abraham /Sarah to 123946678412398++ people, we've had to learn to live together, to create wellness and shalom for everyone; to help in that regard, God models covenant for us! Today we have:

• More on how to walk the talk
• More neighborology, "the word about the neighbor"
• Plans and commands for supplying very material needs

The book of Isaiah is 66 chapters long; Barbara reminded us the entire bible is 66 books long!

• 1st Isaiah, mostly writings from Isaiah of Jerusalem, prior to Babylon exile: 1-39
• 2nd Isaiah, during exile in Babylon, 40-55. Includes "Comfort ye.... every valley" we know from Handel's Messiah and other exquisitely memorably poetic passages.
• 3rd Isaiah, after the exile, back in town trying to rebuild lives, physical and community and religious structures, meaning.

Everyone didn't leave Jerusalem and Judah for Babylon; of those who did leave, some stayed permanently and helped continue to create good living conditions in Babylon. The first reading today is from 3rd isaiah, who wrote to the returnees during the time of reconstructing Jerusalem with hope-filled, shalom-full urban renewal. Rebuilding the temple especially concerned Haggai and Zechariah; Nehemiah focused on rebuilding city walls; Ezra's passion was restoring worship.

Last week on Pentecost 13C again we talked about Jeremiah and his emphasis on (especially distributive) justice, kindness, making sure everyone has adequate food, housing. Both Jeremiah and 3rd Isaiah remind us how the "daily bread" Jesus tells us to ask for includes food, shelter (roofs and walls), clean air, clean water, reasonable laws, good government, overall safety. A huge part of the covenantal ideal for distributive justice is no super-rich, no ultra poor. If you have more than you need, share it. Martin Luther says daily bread includes good servants and obedient kids, too. Revised versions of the Small Catechism include "friends" as necessary for daily sustenance.

In this first reading 3rd Isaiah ties together being good neighbors with keeping sabbath and worship. Isaiah 58 lines out a series of "if – then conditions regarding human behaviors, God's response, and effectiveness of the behaviors' outcomes.

Note:The actual Sabbath never changed from Saturday, the seventh day of the week, the final day of the original old creation [Exodus 20:1-17; Genesis 2:2-3]. The early Church started a tradition of worship on Sunday the day of resurrection, first day of the week, start of the new creation. Let's assume "sabbath" as a necessary time out, a literal ceasing from producing, counting, working, but not a time of laziness and shiftlessness.

Discussion: In terms of "trampling on the sabbath," people not observing any day or time of rest, stores staying open al day long... it has seriously escalated during our lifetimes. Human doings more than human beings.

We could have endless conversations about what agency or individual or branch of government best provides which goods and services, how much can an individual do, what can a local church or larger expression of the church attempt and accomplish? Taxes we pay to government help pay for some services and goods. Isaiah 58:12"Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in," reminds me of a county commissioner in former city that everyone referred to as "streets and roads," because of his plans, passions, and agendas to mend potholes, repair road surfaces, and simplify getting from one place to another.

3rd Isaiah addresses people who have been displaced just as during later centuries people have been exiled, driven out, or for some reason found it necessary to leave their home country for political or physical (sometimes not enough food for everyone?) reasons. However, I would not underestimate the reality and potential dysfunction of psychological and emotional displacement or exile. Southern California? Twenty-first century? Southern California in the 21st century? I mentioned the late Henri Nouwen writing during the last century and his remarks about life in California frequently feeling and actually being anonymous and rootless.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Pentecost 13C

earlier in this chapter:

Jeremiah 23:1-22

First reading for Pentecost 13C:
Jeremiah 23:23-29

23Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off? 24Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. 25I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, "I have dreamed, I have dreamed!" 26How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back—those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? 27They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. 28Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the Lord. 29Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
Intro: Prophets; Jeremiah; Community

We're ⅔ of the way through the church's year of grace. We've been hearing stories of faithfulness and receiving wise counsel related to ways to walk the talk.

Today we'll look at another passage from Jeremiah. Jeremiah is one of four Major Prophets in the Old Testament—"major" in terms of length, number of verses and pages. Jeremiah lived and spoke God's word before, during, and after the Babylonian exile. Of the other major prophets, Ezekiel, who was a priest in the holiness temple tradition, prophesied before and during the exile. We divide the book of Isaiah into three parts: chapters 1-39, before the exile; 40-55, during †he exile; 56-66 after the exile. The words in Isaiah come from at least three different authors. The last major prophet, Daniel, is a book about a prophet rather than a book by a prophet. The Hebrew bible did not originally include Daniel, but later placed the book of Daniel in the writings (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Jonah, etc.) rather than in its collection of prophecies. Daniel is very very post-exilic, about 200 years before Jesus of Nazareth's birth. The prophet Jeremiah probably did not write the book of Lamentations; opinions on authorship still vary some.

Jeremiah was a priest from the tribe of Benjamin, very much in the covenantal neighborly traditions of Deuteronomy. Other Benjaminites include King Saul [1 Samuel 9:15-27], the first of the three rulers in the united monarchy of Saul, David, and Solomon; and Saul/Paul of Tarsus [Romans 11:1; Philippians 3:4-5]. Deuteronomy is highly concerned with justice and righteousness, especially in how we treat the least of these, back then particularly widows, orphan children, disabled, less-abled, and anyone with few resources. Deuteronomy focuses a lot on the land, on its stewardship and care, on treating the land we rely on for life with justice and righteousness.

Last week we talked about Abram/Abraham, as Abram and Sarai moved from being a solitary couple into a community larger than the grains of sand on the beach, greater than the stars in the sky. When you live around other people you need guidelines for living safely and well. Same with us. We start out as relatively solitary individuals, then in baptism become part of a world wide and historical community that's greater than all the stars, more numerous than all that sand. We need a "how to live faithfully." For us as well as for God's people Israel, the commandments are part of the working papers for living in covenant with God. Together with each other. Wherever we venture out there into the world.

Neighborology

The word about our neighbor. A few weeks ago on Pentecost 8 we discussed Jeremiah, Deuteronomy, and Good Sam. Remember Jesus' followers asked him, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus told them: "a guy went down to Jericho..." Last week: God moves Abram/Abraham and us from more or less solitary into a community of trillions plus. This week: reflecting the neighborly land traditions of Deuteronomy, Jeremiah shows us how – and how not – to live together.

Theology Terms

God asks through Jeremiah, 23"Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off? 24Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth?" says the Lord.

Near by, close by, at hand, etc. would be immanent, immanence. Far off, far away, out there, etc. refers to transcendent, transcendence. Fill heaven and earth is ubiquity, ubiquitous. Martin Luther refers to the ubiquity, the every-where-ness of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, and also the ubiquity of the risen and ascended Jesus Christ.

Jeremiah

In the previous chapter 22 and in the first part of our current chapter 23, Jeremiah speaks against false gods, fake prophecies, a lot of it "feel good" words people would enjoy hearing but that are not from God. In this twenty-first century we get a lot of that. Examples include prosperity preaching; the religion of excessive sports. Richard mentioned the commercialism that has become pervasive, 7-days long every week. The Sabbath still is Saturday – that never changed – yet every one of us needs a time for worship, time to cease from producing and counting, whether that's Saturday, Sunday, or a weekday if your employment has you working on a weekend day.

Hebrew Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann cites three non-negotiables: the commandments (of course); the tithe (everything always belongs to God, but symbolically we return and offer back at least that formal 10%); the Sabbath.

23:29Is not my word like fire, says the Lord... I mentioned how especially in Southern California we know about life rising from the apparent near-total devastation of a wildfire. Some seeds need to be seared and singed by fire in order to break open, start reproducing, and become fruitful. Like us?

Monday, August 08, 2016

Pentecost 12C

Hebrews 11:1-3; 8-16

1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. 3By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

Pentecost 12C omits these verses

4By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. 5By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and "he was not found, because God had taken him." For it was attested before he was taken away that "he had pleased God." 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.

8By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. 9By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. 12Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, "as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore." 13All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, 14for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.

15If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews Basics

Sermon series probably addressed to Hebrew Christians about 60 C.E., Brings us Jesus Christ as Son of God and Son of Man—fully human and fully divine. Many details relate to the book of Leviticus; discusses Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods; lifts up the unique priesthood of Jesus Christ. Hebrews contrast the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Both were covenants of grace, though the old interspersed quite a few works.

Interesting factoid: Hebrews is one of seven books in Martin Luther's antilegomena – literally spoken against – "leftovers" in the biblical canon. Luther's list also includes books of James (famously), Revelation, Jude, 2 John, 3 John, and 2 Peter.

Today's passage omits Hebrews 11:4-7 that tells about the faithfulness of Abel, Enoch, and Noah. The author's cloud of witnesses continues later in the book of Hebrews.

The first reading for Pentecost 12C also features Abraham—when his name still was Abram:

Genesis 15:1-6

1After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, "Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great."

2But Abram said, "O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" 3And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir." 4But the word of the Lord came to him, "This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” 5He brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your descendants be." 6And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Throughout the witness of scripture we heard about the promise and the gift of land. Turf. Sod. Dirt. Ground. The stuff that comprises our bodies. The places on which we tread.

God tells Abram to go to a place, a land, "I will show you." The future always is unknown to everyone. Many of us die without ever fully realizing or seeing the full outcome of God's promises.

Abram's act of trusting God led from a solitary twosome of Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah to a great cloud of witnesses, of faithful followers, more than stars in the sky, more than grains of sand.

Our individual act of trusting God by grace in the power of the HS leads to an uncountable number of witnesses.

Discussion: I started with Mother Teresa's answer to God's call and claim on her life; several participants told us about examples of faithfulness they'd seen and experienced.

This time I had a whole lot more notes than we got to on Sunday; I may type and post those later as a separate blog, but wanted to get this blogged and needed to get onto considering Pentecost 13C.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Pentecost 11C

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23

Chapter 1

1The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 2Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. 3What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun?

12I, the Teacher, when king over Israel in Jerusalem, 13applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. 14I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.

Chapter 2

218I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me 19—and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? 23For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.
Bible: a book of [66] books...

with many different types of literary genres, forms, styles. Quick overview includes psalms that themselves are prayers and songs; NT canticles in Luke are similar to psalms and modeled on OT sources. Bible includes history—some bureaucratic, some simple narrative, some historical accounts that are saga or myth and bring us the people's phenomenological experiences along with their emotional and psychological ones. We get prophecy with four Major Prophets, and the shorter Book of the Twelve, aka "Minor Prophets"—prophecy/speaking truth to power includes exhortation, diatribe, polemic, apocalyptic. Some biography/autobiography: parts of Job are biographical; so are a lot of NT epistles. Epistles are letters that mean "sent" writings! The NT includes four gospels. Gospel originally was the returning Roman general's victory proclamation about annihilating and vanquishing his enemies, an announcement of death. Starting with Mark, Christianity subverted gospel into a proclamation of the victory of life over death, an announcement of resurrection from the dead.

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23

Today's text from Ecclesiastes is in the group of Old Testament / Hebrew Bible writings that are neither Torah nor Prophecy. It's part of the Wisdom literature that also includes Proverbs, Song of Songs/Song of Solomon, and Job. The name of the book evokes "ecclesiastical," ecclesia, etc., descriptors we use for the church, the called-out assembly (City Council, New England Town Meeting, Church Council, Session, Consistory, Sacramento Assembly...). The Hebrew title of the book, Koheleth, Kehilleth, Qoheleth, means teacher/preacher, especially someone who address the gathered assembly, similar to a Minister of the Word in our traditions.

All three lectionary years feature Ecclesiastes 3:1-13, "To everything there is a season," as the first reading for New Year's Day, but otherwise this is the only instance of Ecclesiastes for all 36 lectionary months.

The book of Ecclesiastes opens with "The words of the teacher, the son of David, King of Jerusalem," but its vocabulary, syntax, sentence structure, general worldview and philosophy place it much later, way far post-exilic, probably two or three centuries before Jesus of Nazareth's birth. In some ways it's close to a parody of what the write imagined King Solomon might have said.

The recurring word "vanity" isn't what we think of as vain—for example, Carly Simon telling Warren Beatty (according to some sources), "you're so vain, you probably think this song is about you." It's not your household kitteh strutting around wanting admiration, or the allover style of one of the presidential candidates that also had gotten press for lots of other negative attributes. This vanity is something fleeting, ephemeral, can't be captured. 1:14 reads, "chasing after wind." We feel the wind, we know it's there, but it's beyond elusive.

Lectionary compilers placed this not very positive text alongside Colossians 3:1-11 about our identity in Christ and Luke 12:13-21 about the guy stockpiling lots of stuff he couldn't take with him. This passage comes across on the negative side, but the New Year's Day reading from Ecclesiastes tells us, "the gift of God is that all should [exhortation!] eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil." Ecclesiastes 3:13

Discussion. If you were writing your newsletter article or something similar, what would you reflect on this text?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Pentecost 10C

Luke 11:1-13

1 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John [the baptist] taught his disciples." 2He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3Give us each day our daily bread. 4And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial."

5And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.' 7And he answers from within, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.' 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

9"So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
I.

In the church's year of grace we're well into the season of Pentecost that we often refer to as the Time of the Church. This is year C – "Luke's Year" – in the Revised Common Lectionary. Among other things, Luke emphasizes prayer, the Holy Spirit, and people who are more marginalized than centralized in society. In Luke's Christmas account, angels first announced Jesus' birth to shepherds, people definitely on the outlying fringes of society.

II.

Today our gospel text includes the Lord's Prayer; Matthew and Luke bring us slightly different versions. Like many rabbis and teachers of his day, Jesus offered his followers a way to pray alongside a way to be and ways to act. His prayer includes a request that the Kingdom of Heaven (Reign of God, Sovereignty of God, etc.) happen on earth.

In Luke's gospel the Reign of Heaven includes everyone, *but* especially those typically marginalized from society; it features inclusive table fellowship. In Luke's gospel and in Luke's second volume, the Acts of the Apostles, the icon of the visible reign of God, the church, is a community under the cross as it breaks bread and remembers Jesus. We need to remember these scriptures got written down half a century after Jesus's death and resurrection, so a lot of Luke-Acts is retrospective.

III.

On recent Sundays we've heard about Jesus sending out the 70 two by two and telling them to travel light; counseling them not to be so smug that even demons are subject to them, but to rejoice that there names were written in heaven; Jesus' summary of the ten commandments, aka The Great Commandment; Good Sam; Martha and Mary. Last Sunday we had Christmas in July, celebrating that Christianity is highly incarnational, featuring a God who lives on earth in a body made of stuff of the earth, a body that's decayable on every level, a body subject to death. Like ours!

Luke's gospel emphasizes the HS. As God's people in Christ Jesus, as people of the Pentecostal reign of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit lives within us, indwells our physical bodies.

We've previously discussed the Presbyterian Church USA's Great Ends of the Church that include the Church (that's us!) as the exhibition of the kingdom of heaven to the world. In other words, when people look at us as a gathered community, as friends, acquaintances, or individuals outside of the church campus, they can see (or are supposed to be able to see and experience) the Kingdom of God.

IV.

Today our gospel text includes the Lord's Prayer; Matthew and Luke bring us slightly different versions. Matthew talks about shortcomings and debts; Luke about sin in the classic NT sense of "missing the mark." We ask that God's name be hallowed, holy, set apart. God's name and all names describe and elucidate the person's essence, are identity markers, tell us who that person is.

V.

"Give us today (this day) our daily bread." In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther tells us daily bread includes food on the table, favorable weather and sufficient employment, a kind spouse, good kids, obedient servants(!), just government and civil leaders... Pastor Peg mentioned a recent version of the catechism includes friends among those daily life essentials.

VI.

We had an excellent discussion about the manner and content of prayer in general and I didn't even get to mention the jubilee imagery the Lord's Prayer contains.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pentecost 9C

Celebrating Christmas in July with the Pentecost 09 texts!
I – Colossians 1:15-28

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.

21And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him— 23provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel. 24I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. 25I became its servant according to God's commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. 27To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
II – Christmas: Nativity / Birth / incarnation

Incarnation: enfleshment; embodiment. Carne is latin for meat. Carne Asada; Chile con Carne; Carniceria.

By definition Christianity is incarnational. On Christmas we celebrate Jesus's birth among us in a body made out of the stuff of the earth; a body that is finite, decayable, and will die.

A couple thousand years ago it was commonplace that you'd be talking or walking with a person who was half human and half divine. In Jesus Christ we meet someone fully human and fully divine.

III – Colossians

For today and the next two weeks the RCL includes readings from the Letter to the Church at Colossae. Today we're using the default lectionary readings; as we celebrate enfleshment / incarnation / embodiment, how apt that the Colossian community tended toward the heresy of gnosticism that somewhat denied the essential reality of the body and focussed instead on the supremacy of spirit.

Probably written two or three decades after Jesus' death and resurrection, in Colossians we find theology (the word about the divine), Christology (words about the Christ), and cosmology (word regarding the scope and reach of all creation) that anticipates the worldview of John's gospel a half century later. We sometimes talk about the Cosmic Christ!

The apostle Paul is about outward from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth; Colossians' author moves beyond planet earth and into immeasurable time and space. Colossians also contains many words not found in any of Paul's epistles as well as syntax and sentence structure different from Paul's.

IV – God Among Us: historical witness – OT/Hebrew Bible; NT

Colossians tells us about the image, icon, of God. What does God's image look like? Icon, logo examples: google; ELCA; other products. Not the entity itself but a pointer to it.

God's first act of covenant, creation itself shows God's passion to live among us. James Weldon Johnson's poem, The Creation opens with:
And God stepped out on space,
And he looked around and said:
I'm lonely--
I'll make me a world.

We find God's voice and physical presence in the prophets.

3 Samuel 7: 4-6
But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David, "This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? 6I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling.

Later on the passage God via Nathan promises David a house, a dynasty, a lineage, that wouldn't be a building but would be enfleshed, incarnate, in Jesus of Nazareth, "Son of David."

After the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, the inspired late exilic (or post-exilic community brought us Genesis 1, with all creation as God's home, God's temple.

God among us in Jesus' birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension.

God in our midst in Word and Sacrament.

V – Last week: Neighborology

Colossians tells us about the image, icon, of God. What does God's image look like?

Us as God's incarnate, enfleshed, presence in the world here and now, particularly in our very local communities.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Pentecost 8C

Deuteronomy 30:9-14

9and the Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous [plenteous, surplus!] in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors, 10when you obey the Lord your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

11Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. 12It is not in heaven, that you should say, "Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?" 13Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, "Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?" 14No, the word [dabar] is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.
Neighborology: the Word about the Neighbor – Jeremiah / Deuteronomy

As sometimes happens, the RCL brings us texts closely related to the events of the past week in the USA. First, a relatively rare excursion into Deuteronomy, the covenantal, neighborly – neighborology – text par excellence, very much in the tradition of Jeremiah, despite its long historical sweep.

Deuteronomy is one of the five books of the Pentateuch, Ha Torah, the books of the law. However, rather than being rigidly legalistic, practicing Torah is a fluid, stretchy, flexible enterprise that's always on the side of grace, mercy, love, and distributive justice. Despite its being in the covenantal tradition of Jeremiah, Deuteronomy is compiled from sources that range over about five centuries, from the United Monarchy of Saul, David, and Solomon at least through the Babylonian exile and likely into the post-exilic period of Persian hegemony. Deuteronomy moves beyond theory and ideas to practice and reality, showing us covenantal neighborology in action. Deuteronomy demonstrates Torah neighborology lived out on turf and in time.

Deuteronomy 30:14 "No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe."

Better translation is "the word is very near you in your mouth and in your heart and you will do it." Double meaning of commandment and promise on You will do it.

Neighborology: the Word about the Neighbor – Good Samaritan

The Word for us as Christians? The Word very near us? Baptized into the Word of Life Jesus Christ, immersed in the Word, the word surrounds and engulfs us. The gift of death, the gift of resurrection.

Luke among the gospels uniquely brings us Good Sam: Jesus finishes his capsule description of the commandments that ends with "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," and the guy jumps in and asks, "but who is my neighbor?" Jesus famously replies, "A man went down to Jericho from Jerusalem..."

Mainly because of the past week's events, I'd planned to open the rest of the time to discussion if it felt right, and it did, so these notes are uncharacteristically brief.