Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Pentecost 16C

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

15See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Luke 14:25-33

25Now large crowds [throngs] were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26"Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' 31Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

We listened to words from Deuteronomy and from Luke. For several weeks we've been talking about neighborology: who is my neighbor? how can I be a good neighbor?

The compilation of the book of Deuteronomy was a long time coming, from events and written sources prior to the Babylonian exile, to events and sources afterwards during the rebuilding of Jerusalem, of community, of worship, of Torah. Luke the gentile's word and gospel are wide and expansive and inclusive.

Deuteronomy reminds us to choose life by keeping the commandments, by considering the needs of the other person as at least as important as our own needs. Jesus talks about following him by carrying the cross. That's not necessarily anything as dramatic as being killed for being Christian by enemies of Jesus; not as influential as Mother Teresa's ministry or as spending a season alongside Mother Teresa's peeps. It can be as simple as giving some of your lunch to your hungry coworker, donating a dollar or two to the animal shelter, lending the sweater in your backpack to the shivering person beside you in church—always making sure your basic needs have been met, because you've can't give away what you don't have. Again we cited the example of putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. The late Jewish theologian Martin Buber tells us, "love is the responsibility of an I for a thou."

The compilation of the book of Deuteronomy was a long time coming, from events and written sources prior to the Babylonian exile, to events and sources afterwards during the rebuilding of Jerusalem, of community, of worship, of Torah.

Related to the reading from Deut 30, in 2 Kings 22 we have the narrative during the reign of Josiah of Huldah's discovering the scrolls of Torah, the people in tears when they listened and heard. Remember the English word "law" can be a caricature of Torah. This passage from Deut probably comes from much later than when God's people were getting ready to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land after the wilderness trek, but this scripture retells, recounts, and remembers their experiences of God's faithfulness. We do the same thing when we celebrate Holy Communion! Part of the Eucharistic Prayer includes events from God's history with the people; by reciting those events, we claim them and place ourselves in the history of all God's people. Someone mentioned "Remember!" is the Gospel in a single word.

Since Luke 9:51, Jesus has been on this way to Jerusalem, on his journey to the cross. In the reading from Luke, "hate" implies a lesser love, second choice, less intense affection, less esteem, and not the visceral disgust, rejection, and loathing our English word hate implies.

The Reformers insisted Word and Sacrament were enough – satis es / it is sufficient [Augsburg Confession Article 7] – for the existence of the Church; where you find Word and Sacrament, you find the church. No Word and Sacrament? No Church. Martin Luther also outlined (biblical number) 7 marks of the true church:

• proclamation
• baptism
• holy communion
• confession and forgiveness, also called the office of the keys
• valid orders
• worship and hymn-singing in the vernacular, the language of the people
• suffering and persecution, or "the cross"

What does it mean to be a church under the sign of the cross, under the sign of death? For most of us it doesn't mean spectacular feats of martyrdom or even months and years of Mother Teresa-style service. It means giving up – the death of – our comforts, our preferences, putting the needs of the other person first. Being a good neighbor. Choosing first the way of the commandments, the way of God. Jesus said give up "all your possessions"—exaggeration, hyperbole. But we also can read into that to treat others as persons, meeting them where they are and as they are, helping meet their needs, rather than viewing people as objects or possessions to fulfill our needs.

Neighborology: the word about the neighbor; words about being good neighbors. The commandments. Jesus of Nazareth.

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