summer solstice!

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Advent 1B

Mark 13:24-37

24"But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26Then they will see "the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. 27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. 28"From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32"But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."

With the start of the new church year, we spent a fair amount of time with an overview of the gospel according to Mark; here's a short blog for Advent 1.

Today with the first Sunday of Advent, the church begins a new year of grace. Blue is the color for Advent; blue is the color of hope. Advent with its hope is a harbinger of Easter, the fulfillment of hope. Every year the scripture readings open Advent with a splash of apocalyptic, signaling the end of the world as we've known it—the end of death, destruction, empire, violence, exploitation.

Remember apocalypse, apocalyptic, apocalypticism? Revealing, uncovering, unveiling. Apocalyptic literature usually includes code words and images we need to interpret or unwrap on a level beyond the obvious. The passage from Mark's gospel that opens Advent this year 2017 comes from the middle of Mark's passion narrative!

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Mark RCL Year B Intro

As the earliest and shortest and most immediate of the four canonical gospels, Mark is the one for the texting and tweeting crowd!

Although all known manuscripts carry the heading The Gospel According to Mark, it's probably not by Peter's ministry companion John Mark, but from an unknown author (or group thereof).

Prior to Mark, good news or "gospel" was the returning Roman general's announcement of annihilating the other army's troops. This gospel according to Mark subverts that into the Good News of God's victory over the powers of sin and death, the triumph of the reign of life.

Probably written from Rome to Greek speaking gentile Christians, maybe as early as 45 C.E., almost definitely no later than 60 C.E..

Between them, Matthew and Luke include 631 of Mark's 661 verses. We find about 90% in Matthew; 50% in Luke. A year ago we talked about a possible source called Q for the first letter of the German Quelle meaning source or river. Was there a Q? Not known. Was Mark Q? Probably not.

No birth narrative; no resurrection account.
Mark doesn't mention Joseph, Jesus' earthly father.
Mark includes a lot of miracles, healings, and exorcisms.
Mark famously features the Messianic secret – Jesus' don't tell anyone!

Just as in Matthew and Luke, Mark's Jesus loves to refer to himself as "Son of Man" – the Human One. Daniel, Ezekiel, Enoch.

After his baptism followed by 40 days in the wilderness (also in Matthew and Luke), Jesus calls disciples Simon, Andrew, James, and John; then his first act of public ministry is casting out a demon in the midst of a synagogue service.

Just as for Luke, in Mark's gospel the journey to Jerusalem and the cross is intentional and incessant.

Mark particularly brings us God coming near to humanity and to all creation. Think of how central the Jerusalem temple was to economic, political, and religious life. God no longer is far away, behind the clouds, ensconced, contained, and protected in the temple. But then again, all the gospel accounts are about God-with-us, God-among-us, God-for-us...

Where do we look for God? Where do we find God?

Not in the temple – but on the cross
Not in established religious, economic, political institutions – but outside the city limits, in the wilderness. In the stranger and outcast. In, with, and under all creation.
In the mainline church and in mainstream society? Can we answer that question?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Reign of Christ • Christ the King A

Responsive Psalm 95 was our opening prayer

Psalm 95:1-8a

Refrain: We are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

1O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 2Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! Refrain

3For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 4In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. Refrain

5The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed. 6O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! Refrain

7For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice! 8Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness... Refrain

Matthew 25:31-46

31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' 37Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' 40And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, "You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44Then they also will answer, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' 45Then he will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
The church has journeyed through another year of grace; today we conclude with the feast of Christ the King / Reign of Christ / the Sovereignty and Rule of the Crucified and Risen Jesus of Nazareth. I strongly suggested everyone read the commentary from Sundays and Seasons printed on the back of our worship bulletin.

We don't talk much about royalty – kings, queens, etc. Or do we? We know particularly the British royals are well aware of their position sof service to the people. What about others in authority? Government leaders such as presidents, prime ministers, senators, mayors, members of parliament, city or town council— in a democracy, the people elect most of those leaders, so technically their decisions are supposed to respond to the will of the people. Bosses in a workplace? Manager, supervisor, CEO... Church? In most mainline church polities, voting members of the congregation elect the governing board (council, session, consistory, vestry). In episcopal polity that designate the minister of word and sacrament "rector" or ruler rather than pastor, that person wields a kind of authority the pastor in most Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc. churches doesn't have. However, the resident pastor – whether interim or settled – is responsible for the theology that goes down.

Today is the last Sunday in Revised Common Lectionary Year A that features the gospel we received from the community gathered around Matthew. What are some of Matthew's features?

Matthew begins with Jesus' genealogy, and then emphasizes Jesus as God-with-us, from the time an angel instructs Joseph to name the baby Emmanuel, to the end of the gospel account when Jesus promises to be with us always, and then send us, his followers, out to be his ongoing presence in the world. Although Luke's gospel features the role of women, including Jesus' mother Mary, Matthew tells us quite a lot about Jesus' stepfather Joseph.

Matthew uniquely brings us a visit by the magi from the east, demonstrating Jesus as Savior for all. Only Matthew brings us the flight into Egypt, where Jesus becomes a refugee. Matthew emphasizes Jesus as the new King David and as the new Moses, the new liberator. Pastor Peg reminded us Matthew's Jesus does a lot of teaching and explaining. I mentioned by the time Matthew's community recorded this gospel, the second Jerusalem Temple had been destroyed, but it still was standing during Jesus' earthly life.

Next week we start a new year of grace with the first Sunday of Advent and the gospel according to Mark.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Pentecost 24A

Matthew 25:14-30

14"For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. 19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, "Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.' 21His master said to him, "Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, "Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.' 23His master said to him, "Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' 24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, "Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' 26But his master replied, "You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

The church has almost cycled through another year of grace! Today is the next to last Sunday for this liturgical year. In the Revised Common Lectionary that provides our scripture readings we're concluding Year A, Matthew's year, that like the others intersperses some readings from the gospel according to John. The RCL is ecumenical, meaning many different church bodies and denominations follow it. Next Sunday we'll celebrate Christ the King / Reign of Christ / the Sovereignty of the Crucified and Risen Jesus of Nazareth. And then it will be Advent.

Today we hear another famous parable, this one's about talents and has received a wide range of interpretations. Originally a talent was a huge amount of money—one source I found said it was about twenty years' wages, but of course that would vary depending the person's job and skill. Using that guideline, five talents would be 100 years' pay! We get the word talent that refers to someone's natural gifts and abilities from the Greek word in this parable.

Jesus does not open with "the kingdom of Heaven / God is like," so this is not a parable of the Kingdom or Reign of God. The account starts out about money and a worker's wages; the master in the story is not God or Jesus. The way the money economy still goes down, if money is making money, someone is being exploited, so Torah and Jewish culture forbade charging interest on a loan. Not only excessive interest or usury—forbidding any interest percentage whatsoever. So the concept of "investing" money in a securities, commodities, or any other market would have been against the counsel of Torah.

A class member pointed out the master gave no instructions, but simply handed out money. One commentary I read (that Pastor Peg also had seen and mentioned) suggested the guy who got only one talent had been a good and faithful steward and held onto the money, had not violated Torah guidelines by trying to make more money with it, and even informed the master about the master's reputation, prophetically speaking truth to power, and got cast out of society. Commentary suggested that guy could be a model for Jesus himself! Someone mentioned they'd only heard this (stewardship?) parable applied to our native gifts and abilities, and that's definitely one type of talent we need to invest and cultivate in time, training, education, practice, some of which take actual money, too.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Pentecost 23A

Matthew 25:1-13

1Jesus said to the disciples, "Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6But at midnight there was a shout, "Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' 7Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish said to the wise, "Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' 9But the wise replied, "No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' 10And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, "Lord, lord, open to us.' 12But he replied, "Truly I tell you, I do not know you.' 13Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Two more Sundays and we'll have cycled through another year of grace in the church! Next week will be Pentecost 24; then on the last Sunday of this year of grace, we'll celebrate Reign of Christ / Christ the King before we move into another season of Advent, into Revised Common Lectionary Year B when we feature the gospel according to Mark that's the earliest and shortest of the four canonical gospels.

Let's begin with the Apostle Paul's reminder from 2 Corinthians 6:2 that reminds us now is the "acceptable time, the day of salvation." Today, this instant, is the time to repent, forgive, start making restitution—the time of action, time of doing justice and righteousness God calls us to through the prophet Amos 5:24 in the first reading for today. Paul picks up on God's promise in Isaiah 49:8a that in a favorable time, a day of salvation, God will answer us and help us. That's right now. It's today.

Like the characters in Matthew's allegory we need to wait, but we also need to take life-giving, merciful, loving, justice-enhancing action Jesus calls us to in the Beatitudes as we wait. Interesting the lectionary juxtaposes this wedding attendants story with Amos' call to cascading righteousness and justice.

Last week for All Saints Sunday we again heard the "Blessed are" Beatitudes from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Maybe you've heard them referred to as Be-Attitudes?

Jesus' addresses his parable or allegory to his "disciples," to us. Yes, we need to wait for the second coming of Christ Jesus tells us about, but it's not passive waiting. The "end times" are the end of the world as we know it; the end of violence, injustice, and exploitation that we know too well. The dawn and beginning of the new world of peace-filled shalom, distributive (and other forms of) justice for all, integrity and purposefulness for all creation. The end times are a gateway or open door to the new creation.

Our discussion placed this passage in context of the beatitudes, and in the context of Jesus' talk about end times or eschatology (the word about "last things") in the previous chapter, Matthew 24. Also looking forward to Reign of Christ where Jesus tells people whenever anyone gave a cup of water to the least of these, visited those in prison, etc. they (we, us, you, me) did those merciful and life-restoring actions to him. We talked about the massacre at First Baptist Sutherland, Texas last Sunday. This past week all over social media people said "thoughts and prayers" were not enough. They needed to hear about the end of gun violence, the reform of the NRA, repeal of existing gun laws, etc. Take action! Be God's hands, feet, voice, presence in the world!

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Reformation 500

Jeremiah 31:31-34

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the Lord," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Opening Prayer from J.S. Bach's Cantata No. 79; this was the choir anthem and our sending hymn – ELW 840.

Now thank we all our God,
with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done,
in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers' arms
has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.

Martin Rinkart, ca. 1636; translation by Catherine Winkworth

This year's Reformation Sunday / Reformation Day is Reformation 500! Class was less formal and structured than usual. We discussed God's promise of newness and restoration, of resurrection from the dead through the prophets—especially through 2nd Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.

I mentioned how today's revised common lectionary texts fit well with Jesus' promise of constant presence with us via the gospel we received from John; how they mesh with this year's featured gospel according to Matthew that starts out with Emmanuel, God-with-us, concludes with Jesus' promise to be with us always and his Great Commission charge to us to be his witnesses and presence everywhere on earth. Over the past 4 weeks we studied passages from Philippians; today also fits well with the Apostle Paul's close identity with the crucified and risen Christ, his longing to be "in Christ' to such an degree he shares in Jesus' death and resurrection.

I asked again how we know God is with us; like last week, (for once) I wanted a specific answer: word and sacrament. Beyond a nice, calm, smug, or satisfied feeling, Word and Sacrament remain earthbound, physical evidence we can sense (smell, hear, taste, see, touch) God is here. With us.

Observations about Luther and other reformers acting as God's agent through the Holy Spirit of life, renewal, restoration, and resurrection. Church always is situated in place and time; we discussed the geography of how we're the only church on this plot of land, this longitude and latitude; talked about the chronology of countless other valid expressions of the church around the world, hundreds in this city.

I asked especially about dreams for LCM, for this neighborhood, and this city. All Saints' Sunday next week!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Pentecost 20A

Psalm 96

Sing a new song for God, all the earth! Sing a new song! Sing a new song!
Sing a new song for God, all the earth! Sing a new song! Sing a new song!

Declare God's glory,
and bless God's name.
Tell the story day after day for God is coming, oh, oh,
here among us, oh, oh!

Let the sky and earth be glad.
Creatures of the sea and land.
Come and make a joyful noise,
ev'rything that has a voice!
Let the sky and earth be glad,
creatures of the sea and land.

And the fields are celebrating,
in their joy the crops are waving,
and the forests singing in rhythm,
ev'ry tree can hold the vision!

Paraphrase and music by Richard Bruxvoort-Colligan

Matthew 22:15-22

15Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" 18But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19Show me the coin used for the tax." And they brought him a denarius. 20Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" 21They answered, "The emperor's." Then he said to them, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." 22When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

Creation Psalms

The lectionary appoints Psalm 96 and two other creation-focused psalms 98 and 148 every year for the feast of the nativity, incarnation, the celebration of God-among-us that begins in a spectacularly paradoxical way with baby Jesus in the Bethlehem manger. Those psalms bring us all creation celebrating the prospect of the new and more loving human stewardship and caretaking of creation that will happen as a result of Jesus. As Hebrew bible scholar Walter Brueggemann says, "Of course the forests clap their hands! No more clear-cutting! Of course oceans rejoice! No more pollution!"

we've traveled far in the church's year of grace...

in this Season of the Spirit of Pentecost, Time of the Church, in the gospel according to Matthew:

After the famous genealogy, Matthew starts out with the angel telling Joseph to name the baby Emmanuel, God-with-us.
At the end of the gospel, Jesus promises to be with us always, and sends us into the world (Great Commission) as his crucified and risen presence. Our readings from John's gospel have emphasized abiding in Jesus. That's more than simple assent, more than plain "believing," more than basic trust. As the apostles Paul would have it with his expression "In Christ" (and with the Philippians passages we've considered over the past month), it's total surrender to Jesus, a kind of melting into him and his way of life, identifying and living into his death and resurrection. Remember, for the apostle Paul, the gospel is Death and Resurrection.

Back to Matthew:

Today's scripture passage has us in Holy Week.

• "The Lord has need." Matthew 21:1-3

• Daughter of Zion, your king is coming to you. Matthews 21:5

• 21:8-9 Palm branches, Hosanna to the Son of David

• 21:10 "When he entered Jerusalem...." who is this?

• 21:11 the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee

• 21:12-17 Cleanses the Temple – "den of robbers" in verse 17 left for Bethany

• 21:18-22 curses the fig tree // verse 22, whatever you pray in faith shall be given to you

• 21:23-27 Enters the Temple, questions about John's baptism verse 17 "neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."


• 21:28-32 vineyard workers

• 21:33-46 Vineyard with watchtower, kills slaves, kills the son; 21:42 stone the builders rejected

Matthew 22

• 22:1-14 Wedding Banquet. 22:9 go into the streets and invite everyone. 22:12 How did you get in here without a wedding robe?

• 22:15-22 today's political practical text

• Last Sunday we heard 22:34-40 the greatest commandment: 37 = God 38 = neighbor as ourselves. The lectionary assigns this text for Pentecost 21, but next Sunday we'll be celebrating Reformation rather than Pentecost 21.

• continuing in Matthew: more parables