summer solstice!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Pentecost 10A

Matthew 14:22-33

22Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I {I am}; do not be afraid." 28Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." 29He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" 32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

Today we come from the death of Jesus' cousin John the Baptist followed by Jesus feeding the huge throng of 5,000 that likely added up to a total of 15,000 hungry, needy people. All three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) include those two stories; only Matthew and Mark include very similar versions of today's account of Jesus walking on water and Peter's desire (attempt?!) to walk on water.

From the angel instructing Joseph to name the baby Emmanuel, "God with us" to Jesus' own promise to be with us always at the end of Matthew, God's presence is one of Matthew's major themes.

Today's walking on water / Peter afraid again is another one we've heard countless times. I hope we can get beyond "you need to get out of the boat if you want to walk on water // you need to keep your eyes on Jesus all the time" stereotyped, banal, shallow interpretations to more substance. Of course we do need to leave the boat to walk on water (or maybe not?); keeping our eyes on Jesus and listening to his words rather than noisy media is essential.

We sometimes use the analogy of the church as a boat. LCM's and many other church sanctuaries and worship areas have been constructed in the form of an upside-down ship. We even refer to the section of the sanctuary where worshippers sit as the "nave," same source as the word "navy." Interesting class observations about sudden squalls and other mini- micro-storms on the Sea of Galilee, Long Island Sound, Iowa, and elsewhere. But never along the expanse of the always calm Pacific Ocean.

14:27 Most non-Greek bibles tell us Jesus said something like "it is I; this is me," yet he really only announced "I am," more than echoing Yahweh's response to Moses asking (what sort of appeared to be a new god in the pantheon), "Who shall I tell my people sent me? What shall I say your name is?" So Jesus not only echoes, he identifies with the God of the exodus, God of freedom, of promise, of grace, God of unmediated presence.

Short discussion of the seven "I am" statements from the gospel according to John's community. I added in that John's "as Moses lifted up the serpent on the pole, so shall the human one be lifted up" strongly implies an 8th "I am the snake."

Many many class observations how Jesus has been praying; Jesus often retreats and goes off by himself to commune and communicate with his Heavenly Father.

Earlier in Matthew 8:23-27 we have Jesus in the same boat as the disciples taming the waters and stilling the storm: "who is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!" That story and today's both demonstrate Jesus as Lord of creation, Jesus acting in ways God usually acts. A few weeks ago for Pentecost 7 we heard Romans 8:19 "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God" that explains creation longs for (remember how wait, expect, hope are the same word in Spanish?) humans who reflect and embody their divine image by caring for the natural world the same way God does. So God calls us to cherish and steward creation as Jesus does, even in ways the start to reverse climate change and prevent more species extinction humans have caused. God calls all of us to be Emmanuel, God-with-us, God's work, our hands on earth, as the denomination's tagline on our chrome orange t-shirts announces.

Moving beyond a simple yet essential keep your eyes on Jesus, we discussed the church as ship with all of us in the boat together traveling from one place to another. We, us, our, ours are the baptismal pronouns.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Pentecost 8A

Romans 8:26-39

26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered." 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Psalm 119:129-136

Refrain: When your word is opened, it gives light and understanding

129Your decrees are wonderful; Therefore I obey them with all my heart.
130When your word is opened it gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.
Refrain

131I open my mouth and pant // Because I long for your commandments.
132Turn to me and be gracious to me, As you always do to those who love your name.
Refrain

133Order my footsteps in your word; Let no iniquity have dominion over me.
134Redeem me from those who oppress me, And I will keep your commandments.
Refrain

135Let your face shine upon your servant // And teach me your statutes.
136My eyes shed streams of tears // Because people do not keep your teaching.
Refrain
We began by praying the responsive psalm with refrain together. It wonderfully rejoices in God's decrees, commandments, torah, grace, promises, redemption. I mentioned God's Word can refer to the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, to the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, or to the proclaimed word of the preacher.

Reviewing from last week

Romans is the seventh and the latest of Paul's undisputed epistles. "Undisputed" means they definitely carry marks and evidence of his authorship (grammar, sentence structure, syntax, vocabulary), although most likely all of these letters garnered edits and additions as they circulated among various churches round-robin style. We sometimes refer to Romans as Paul's systematic theology. Systematics is the philosophical-style theology that presents ideas about God with definitions, outlines, logic, and structure. By standards of people like Augustine and Barth, Romans isn't all that systematic, but it still gives us Paul's mature, well-developed theology.

Today in the Church's Year of Grace

Last week's section of Romans 8 was about the interdependence of humans and the rest of creation; today we hear about the constant presence of the Trinity in our lives, especially in our prayer lives—especially the presence of the Holy Spirit. Again this week, we need to listen and hear carefully because of the very famous and well-known words in this passage. From last week I reiterated the Apostle Paul's distinction between flesh and body: "flesh" tends to refer to sensory excesses; body simply is the housing we live in that's made out of stuff of the earth.

I started out telling about checking into the hostel in L├╝beck, Germany quite a while ago. The only other person in the bunk room and I got to talking; for some reason she told me what incredible confidence and freedom she has because her parents chose her in adoption. We live with that same confidence and freedom because God chooses us, elects us, adopts us in Jesus Christ.

Same word for destined, appointed in Romans 1 and Romans 8

Romans 1:4 God appointed [destined] Jesus son of God as his resurrection (careful note: this is not the heresy of adoptionism).

Romans 8:29 God appointed [pre-appointed, pre-destined]. Jesus as the firstborn of many siblings. In our baptism into Jesus' death and resurrection, we become Jesus' sisters and brothers, offspring of God — logical continuation from last Sunday.

Romans 8:29 Conformed to Jesus' image. Back to the beginning: humans created in God's image; the first Adam in the Garden of Eden; Jesus as the second (new) Adam in the image and likeness of God; us as the body, the presence of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ on earth. In the power of the HS of Pentecost, God recreates humanity.

Discussion of ways our baptism into Jesus' death and resurrection, into the way of the cross, means looking first to our neighbors' needs before our own preferences. Backtracking to Jeremiah and Deuteronomy last fall with "neighborology."

Monday, July 24, 2017

Pentecost 7A

Romans 8:12-25

12So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. 18I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

For the past few months we've studied and discussed Jesus' instructions, promises, and cautions to his followers from John's gospel and from Matthew's gospel As we continue in the Time of the Holy Spirit, Season of the Church in the Church's Year of Grace, today we take an excursion into the book of Romans. The apostle Paul's letter to the church at Rome also details and explains some of the characteristics and behaviors that accompany our identity in Jesus Christ.

Romans is the seventh and the latest of Paul's undisputed epistles. "Undisputed" means they definitely carry marks and evidence of his authorship, although most likely all of these letters garnered edits and additions as they circulated among various churches round-robin style. We sometimes refer to Romans as Paul's systematic theology. Systematics is the philosophical-style theology that presents ideas about God with definitions, outlines, logic, and structure. By standards of people like Augustine and Barth, Romans isn't all that systematic, but it still gives us Paul's mature, well-developed theology.

Today's very famous passage from Romans is about the interwoven interdependence and interconnectedness of human creatures (that's us!) and the rest of God's created order that we sometimes refer to as the natural creation. We've heard these words so often it may be difficult to read and hear them with fresh eyes and new ears! What happens with us affects all creation; what happens in the rest of creations affects humanity.

Paul distinguishes between flesh (sarx) and body (soma). For Paul, "flesh" is bodily tendencies and predilections carried out to an excessive degree: too much food, sex, drink—sometimes too much to a detrimental degree, as in addictions and other compulsive behaviors. Working out too often and too extensively! Insisting on soaking up too much sun?!

In Romans 8:12-25 Saul/Paul of Tarsus insists all creation waits for redemption because true children of God, humans who authentically mirror and embody the Divine Image in which God has created them, care for the earth and all of nature differently from many others, in a manner that reflects their Divine Nature. In the witness of scripture all creation is mutually covenanted and covenanted with heaven; all creation carries within itself breath of the Divine and breathes the Spirit of Life.

In Spanish the same word, espero (esperare, etc.) means hope, expect, and wait. I always find that helpful whenever I read wait, hope, or expect in any scripture text.

Despite current interest in ecological theology emphasizing the redemption and integrity of all creation – not solely human creatures – a lot of teaching and preaching in the Church still focuses on humanity, which in some ways may not be all that "off," given that so much of the rest of creation is in need of restoration, revitalization and resurrection from death primarily because of human sin and failure to steward creation—which naturally results in failure to take proper care of human needs.

We had a long and helpful discussion of ways everyone can be better stewards of create and help reverse many of the negative effects other human activity has caused. I mentioned that the freedom of humans and of the natural creation Paul references always is bounded freedom with limits. "God marked a line and told the sea..."

Christianity's central proclamation is God's definitive self-revelation in Jesus of Nazareth, in a body formed from the "stuff" of the earth. Jesus the Christ, the one whose body his followers would become... now the Church as the body of the crucified and risen Christ is God's Presence on earth. The Holy Spirit fills and indwells our bodies formed from stuff of the earth, as the God of heaven and earth still chooses to make shekinah, a dwelling on earth, to live right here in the city, right there on the beach, everywhere all over the place.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Pentecost 6A

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!"

18"Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."
We get several famous scripture selections today!

• Isaiah 55:10-13 – with God's assurance the Word will bear fruit, will do God's thing on earth. Hebrew here is dabar that denotes both speech and action—walking the talk. This scripture promises God will send us out with joy, lead us with shalom; mountains and hills will sing, trees will applaud like an excited audience.

• Romans 8:1-11 – no condemnation ("down-judgment") for us who live in Christ. Freedom from sin and death!

• Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 – Parable of the Sower with Jesus' own interpretation. Fruitful, faith seeds grow into whatever the source of the seed promises. Greek for grain" in 13:8 is fruit.

• Our responsive Psalm 65:[1-8], 9-13 – offers universalism that includes rivers full of water that help crown the year with bounty so wilderness pastures overflow, meadows become beautifully arrayed, valleyed decked out with grain shout for joy and sing. All this glory in creation happens because God "visits the earth." Those images in the psalm and in the reading rom Second Isaiah remind us that in the Psalms 96, 98 and 148 appointed for Christmas when God visits the earth in the baby Jesus of Nazareth, mountains and hills, valleys, streams and rivers also sing for joy, clap their hands....

So far in the church's year of grace in chapters 10 through 12 of Matthew's gospel we've had Jesus' instructions and commissioning for mission, for the church sent out into the world (that's us, because all of us are sent people or apostles), along with his warnings of what may happen. In Matthew 8 and 9 we experienced Jesus moving from proclaimed word into the enacted deeds that help explain his words. Before that, chapters 5 through 7 covered the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 1 through 4 tell us who Jesus is with his genealogy, birth, and very early life.

Matthew 13 includes the biblical number of 7 parables, starting out with a parable about seed, sower, and earth (ground, land). Everything we have originates in the earth. In scripture the earth of Genesis becomes the land of Leviticus and Deuteronomy that God graces us with as gift and charges us to steward and care for.

Para is beside, alongside, in a similar sense to a medical, legal, or other para-professional, who works with and supports a professional in that field (though today's paraprofessional are highly-trained and professional in their own right). Paraclete as one of the words for the Holy spirit refers to clesis or "called" by our side. Etc.

At the beginning of the passage Jesus leaves the house, sits by the sea (of Galilee, almost definitely), and then goes out into a boat because so many people had gathered around him. Charlene mentioned that sound carries well over water, so everyone could hear people better and it was a way of the crowds being able to notice and focus on him. This was an agricultural society that well would have grasped concept of seed – sower – different types of ground. But we can parallel this parable into other settings, as well.

Everyone agreed we didn't need Jesus' explanation of the different types of soil; everyone agreed each of us is every one one of these soil or ground conditions at various times, often during the same day.

Sara and I had attended Reformation Roadtrip 6 the day before; it emphasized Luther as an interpreter of scripture, with many cautions about the hazards and difficulties of translating any document of any era from one spoken or written language into another. The translator always is somewhere between the original text and their translation or paraphrase. I mentioned our need to contextualize our ministries of speaking and service into culturally congruent words and actions very much included spoken and written words.

Although I'd planned to discuss stewardship of finances, property, and other resources, the other discussions and observations took enough time and become so detailed and interesting I didn't even mention ways we can be too fear-filled, too cautious, focusing on observable limitations rather than trusting God's limitless giving. Like the different stool types, that also tends to be all of us at one time or another.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Pentecost 5A

Zechariah 9:9-12

9Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war-horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. 11As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. 12Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

16"But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 17"We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.' 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, "He has a demon'; 19the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, "Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."

25At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Today we get selections from Handel's Messiah! Second Zechariah brings us the florid soprano "Rejoice, greatly, O Daughter of Zion" that announces messianic redemption over all the world; a soprano sings Jesus' "Come Unto me" after the alto/mezzo promises "He shall feed his flock." All four canonical gospels identify Zechariah 9:9 with Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem at the start of Holy Week:

• Mark 11:1-11
• Luke 19:28-38
• Matthew 21:1-11
• John 12:12-19

For Pentecost 5 Matthew's gospel continues Jesus instructions for mission that we started considering on Trinity Sunday, the octave of Pentecost. Jesus has more directions and cautions for the church in motion, because to be church means to be "sent people" or apostles sent into all the world, starting right where we are here and now, sent in the power and presence and discernment of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost.

Matthew is the only gospel that uses the word ecclesia / church, and outlines some structural and organizational ecclesiology or ways to be church.

Today's gospel reading gives us that famous contrast between wild and crazy and ascetic John the Baptist down by the riverside and his cousin Jesus (though quite counter-cultural by religious and societal norms), known to love parties, conversation, clearly a lover of questioning and debunking political and religious establishments. It's become commonplace to say Jesus shows the lifestyle God's people are supposed to have, John's style doesn't make it. Even "people like us," tend to think we know how Jesus' followers are supposed to be, to appear, to act, yet we've been seeing the same God acing in different ways in wildly different people and circumstances.

We looked around the room and noted among the class regulars many of us have served as readers, ushers, counters, musicians, donated flowers, hosted Sunday brunch. Steve noticed the sign in front needed major help, so responded to God's call to use his gifts and time by upgrading the sign so it looks new.

In the power of the Spirit of Pentecost, individuals move from being atomized, isolated, and widely scattered into the gathered-in, interconnected Body of Christ, where each person brings particular gifts, has different functions and callings. The same God acts in different ways through different people!

I mentioned monastic communities with very ascetic lifestyles compared to our urban ones. Some wear very simple clothing, farm the surrounding land to help feed themselves and the surrounding community, spend a lot of time in prayer. Some monasteries have guest houses and sponsor retreats.

Scripture shows us many instances of finding God's presence particularly on the margins in those "other than, different from us." Maybe most stereotypically and characteristically in little kids, strangers, poets, artists, homeless, anyone person or situation vulnerable and marginalized—rather than centralized.
Matthew 11

7What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8A man in soft raiment? 10A prophet? Yes, and much more than a prophet. Behold, I send my messenger before thy face to prepare the way for thee. 11No one greater born of a woman than John, but the least of these in my kingdom still is greater. 14And if ye are willing to receive it, this is Elijah, that is to come. 15He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Just before today's text Jesus admiringly tells us about J the B: "No one born of a woman [no human] is greater than John" – yes despite that, the least of the ones in the kingdom, empire, sovereignty of God still are greater than his cousin John. Even though for Jesus, John is so great he is the prophet Elijah who had to come again before the Messianic age could happen.

Discussion

Different styles of church buildings. Especially because we're in movie land Los Angeles, several people told us about movie theaters re-purposed into churches. I mentioned new churches often begin by gathering for Sunday worship in a living room, school, or hotel function room. No one in our group was there at the time, but LCM started out in a dance studio. Given that God apparently favors the unpretentious, what do we make of Center of the World Riverside Church in NYC? Can God be there as much as God is in a back alley outcast on the edges of existence in Chicago?

Riverside Church NYC and St. Patrick's Cathedral, too. Steve and Richard both mentioned the sense of awe and heaven as soon as you enter St. Patricks, the wide diversity of people who spend time there. I mentioned the relatively new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in LA that's my idea of the ultimate church building. All of these cost a lot to build and to maintain. Barbara reminded us it's all for the glory of God. Barbara and Sara both mentioned some very large donations to LCM that included an individual who paid for about one-third of the cost of the current pipe organ.

Me: in Salt Lake City during the long time it took to renovate Cathedral of the Madeleine, worship at the Lowell School got dubbed "St. Lowell's." Another cultural piece: when I lived in the very diverse but historically ethnically Italian-American North End of Boston, they renovated St. Stephen's Roman Catholic church on the corner of my street to light, bright, austere, northern European standards. In plain language, the updated style was very Protestant and easily could have passed for Scandinavian Lutheran! Because she was accustomed to and preferred florid southern Italian excesses that to me bordered on tacky and vulgar, my landlady told me she "felt like lighting up a cigarette" when she entered St. Stephens. Not her cultural idea of a sacred space, but it definitely was mine!

Further discussion: what people in different professions tend to wear to work. Legal and financial services still usually rock more formal, sober, attire.

Matthew 11:28-29, rest – Exodus 33:14, "I will give you rest." Sabbath rest in Genesis 2:1-3

Matthew 11:29-30, yoke – yoke of oxen to share the burden (Filipino guest preacher told us a well-constructed yoke rests lightly on the beasts' shoulders). The negative yoke and burden of imperial oppression and demands. The light-weight yoke of Torah obedience, of wisdom.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Pentecost 4A

Matthew 10:40-42

40"Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward."
backtracking

Pentecost 1 | Trinity | Matthew 28:16-20


• all authority in heaven and earth
• go, sent, into all the world – make disciples
• baptize!
• I am with you! Refers back to Emmanuel, God-with-us, at the start of Matthew's gospel

Pentecost 2 | Matthew 9:35-10; 10:19-20

• Jesus proclaimed Good News / Gospel
• called, authorized, sent 12 – Jesus told us he has all authority; he gives us an extension of his authority
• charges disciples (us!) to preach the gospel, heal, raise the dead, etc.
• announce kingdom of heaven, reign of heaven has come near you
• travel very light
• don't sweat what to say; HS will give you the words

Pentecost 3 | Matthew 10:24-30

• disciple / teacher // master /slave
• don't fear x 4 – Sara pointed out "in only about 12 verses," but it's actually in only 7 verses!
• not peace but a sword of division
• new family configuration. Though it's clearly there, nuclear family as we know it isn't prominent in scripture; this new family comprised of Jesus' disciples has experienced the new birth of baptism
• to be worthy of Jesus, take up your cross – both Roman empire's literal cross of execution and the crosses of giving up our own preferences for the well-being of the other and of the community

Today, Pentecost 4 | Matthew 10:40-42

Again, the church's year of grace has moved into the green and growing season of Ordinary Time that's anything but ordinary as it emphasizes the church in the power of the Holy Spirit of life, of resurrection, of love, of newness. "Ordinary" refers to structured, ordered, arranged, laid out in a pattern. In this segment of Ordinary Time we number Sundays after the Day of Pentecost.

• emissary, ambassador, representative brings with them the presence, the authority, the function, and the words of the one who sent them.
reward here is about earned wages, payment you're entitled to, and not a gift of grace
• how did Israel historically treat the prophets?
• hospitality begins and ends this short passage

Scripture distinguishes between the prophet who speaks truth to power and roeh the seer, who peers into the future, though telling if/and/ but alternatives also is part of the word and work of the prophet.

Prophecy in Israel officially began because of the whole Kings Thing they insisted on. Prophecy literally is speaking against the reigning monarch, against any expressions of death-dealing social, economic, cultural, political empire.

In a somewhat permissible official capacity, we sometimes find a court jester or a motley fool, who almost can say what they want in the presence of the official authorities.

Prophets also call people back to the freedom of a new covenantal obedience to the commandments.

Prophets particularly speak God's word of hope and promise for a different future; the end of the old, the beginning of the new. Resurrection from the Dead; a New Creation. In the Hebrew bible we officially find the four "books" of former prophets Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings; and four of latter prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and The Twelve. Although we don't formally list Moses among the prophets, Jesus of Nazareth was "a prophet like Moses," because they both spoke the word of God. So roughly, a prophet is anyone who speaks for God. That includes us with our baptismal roles of prophet (speaker of God's word), priest (mediator between earth and heaven), and sovereign (caretaker of creation).

Monday, June 26, 2017

Pentecost 3A

Romans 6:1b-11

1Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 10:24-39

24"A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! 26"So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32"Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 34"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36and one's foes will be members of one's own household. 37whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Green and Growing Season

The church's year of grace continue numbering Sundays after the Day of Pentecost. This is the third Sunday after Pentecost; three weeks ago we celebrated the fiftieth day of Easter and the gift of the pentecostal Spirit of Life—grace, love, resurrection, God's abiding presence in us, the church, as the body of the Risen Christ. In baptism we receive the gift of this Holy Spirit that enables us to do those "greater things" than Jesus.

This is the Time of the Spirit, Season of the Church in the power of the HS of Pentecost. This is another segment of ordinary, ordered, structured, delineated time; just as during the few Sundays of ordinary time last winter after Epiphany, our liturgical color for vestments, paraments, banners, etc. is growing, verdant green.

The Revised Common Lectionary that suggests our scripture readings pairs Paul/ Saul's Romans 6 baptismal passage with Matthew's Jesus' warning about discipleship. Matthew 10:39 is the first "cross" reference in Matthew's gospel, and it's about the disciples, not about Jesus!

The nuclear family as we know it is not prominent in the Bible, though we hear about parents, children, spouses, in-laws. Jesus describes a new family configuration. Jesus' family is about people who follow him. The continuity of biological heredity and consanguinity also come into the mix, but more than anything, this new family is by Jesus' blood, by baptismal water and word, by chosenness and abrupt discontinuity with what's always been.

Last week on Pentecost 2, Jesus first summoned or called his followers; then he gave them authority to his followers; and then sent them out into the world.

History

Romans is several decades early than the gospel we received from Matthew's community; for Saul / Paul of Tarsus, the gospel is death and resurrection. Particularly with his Jewish / Hebrew roots, he consider baptism a new exodus from slavery of all kinds (sin, death, and the devil as we say in the baptismal liturgy; all the forces and enticements of empire that are agents of death), an life-changing event we do not turn back from, don't revert to our pre-baptismal ways of living and being.

Gerry Rafferty: "we'll meet out on the water, where all strangers are known."

The community gathered around Matthew the tax-collector well may have known the letter to the Romans since epistles were circular, round-robin documents that made their way from church to church, community to community, often receiving edits and revisions along the way. But Matthew's Jesus would not have been doing baptismal theology in the way Paul does in Romans, the way we do in the 21st century church.

Discussion

With this first reference to cross in Matthew's gospel, Jesus well knew anyone at odds with the Roman occupation government was at high risk for crucifixion; most likely Jesus started anticipating his own crucifixion even earlier than we read about in the gospel narratives. So this refers to literal crucifixion, though everyone agreed with one of our class participants who said it's also putting to death our own desires, preferences, lifestyles, when they clash or interfere with God's call to us, Jesus invitation and call to follow him as disciples, apostles, "sent people." Those of us who lose our lives for Jesus' sake.

Surprisingly, we didn't really talk at all about Jesus' descriptions of how society well might treat his faithful followers.

We also mentioned the study and devotional practice of rewording and rephrasing scripture in ways that make sense to us, that help the ideas come alive. As in Pastor Eugene Peterson's The Message version / interpretation, that in some passages is more paraphrase than it is translation.

I've mentioned how we're creating the Acts of the Twenty-First Century Apostles, and (blogger or not), we could try writing down some of our experiences of action, witness, testimony in the Spirit of Pentecost.