summer solstice!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lent 6: Palm / Passion Sunday

Philippians 2:5-11

2If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.

9Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Four weeks ago on Lent 2 we talked about Philippians as the Epistle of Joy. Today is Palm/Passion Sunday! We're getting ready for Easter—last Sunday and today we're seriously getting into some theology of the cross. Theology of the Cross was at the heart of Martin Luther's theology, and if we read both the OT and NT carefully, we find it's at the heart of God's self-revelation.

Recapping last week:

• Theology of the cross is about God's own self-revelation, especially in Christ crucified. Theology of the cross is about God's often hidden, sacramental, paradoxical (try to define paradoxical?) presence in the comment things, people, and situations. All of us have experiences of being able to look back onto a tough, hard, unpleasant situation and in retrospect recognize God was there all the time at that time.

• Theology of glory is about human ideas and imaginings of how a powerful, all-knowing, sovereign God might act. Maybe how humans wish God would behave?

Luther reminds us to see the fullness of God's power and sovereignty, look to the Bethlehem manger; look to the Calvary cross.

Martin Luther, "The God who became small for us in Christ" ... small enough to die.

Philippi was a Roman colony, so just like the apostle Paul himself, technically the people Paul wrote to were Roman citizens yet still colonials. They received a fair amount of freedom and privilege; they had a lot of civic and cultural pride; they were not financially impoverished, either. Anyone in that culture would have considered humility completely countercultural. Our essential baptismal identity in Christ is citizenship /membership without boundaries, borders, or barriers.

Almost forever people have imagined the Apostle Paul quoted a hymn from another source here, but Gordon Fee, professor emeritus at Regent College, Vancouver, Canada says...

If it was originally a hymn of some kind, it contains nothing at all of the nature of Greek hymnody or poetry. Therefore, it must be Semitic in origin. But the alleged Semitic parallelism of this piece is quite unlike any known example of Hebrew psalmody. It lacks the rhythm and parallelism one might expect of material that is to be sung. And in any case, it fits very poorly with the clearly hymnic material in the Psalter or in Luke 1:46-55, 68-79, or in 1 Timothy 3:16b, to name but a few clear NT examples of hymns.

In any case, it's probably not an original by Paul but probably had been circulating mourned town. It now has become an "early Christian song."

This passage does not use words like imitate, obey, type, or model, it still calls us to pattern our behaviors after Jesus' obedience. Pastor Peg pointed out "mind of Christ" is more than just brain: it's our whole way of being. The word most English translations render as "slave" also is slave (not servant) in Greek. Discussion of emotional impact of words; changes in historical meaning, too.

Kenosis: theology word for today—emptying something that's full, complete, etc.

Jesus freely and obediently chose the journey to passion, death, and resurrection that involved emptying himself of power and status (kenosis). He made the choice from a position of power. Pastor Peg mentioned what a hot-button word "slave" is in this country, and in the ethnically very diverse church she recently served as interim the concern was finding ways to fill (especially) the teenagers and young adults with enough self-worth you then could encourage them empty themselves in lives of service.

How do we measure our status? Social media popularity, hits, post likes! Does social media define us these days! Creating and crafting our own self image. Maybe we don't struggle much with civic or ethnic pride, maybe we don't even need much of a dose of humility, but how about other struggles?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Lent 5C

Philippians 3:4-14

4even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.

8More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Three weeks ago on Lent 2 we talked about Philippians as the Epistle of Joy! This week on Lent 5 and next week for Lent 6 (Palm/Passion) Sunday, the second reading again will be from Philippians. Philippians is one of Paul's captivity letters written from one of the times he was incarcerated (by humans) in Ephesus or Rome. The readings for today and next Sunday reveal Paul captured by and captive to Jesus Christ as a no holds barred prisoner of his Lord!

We're moving into the conclusion of Lent and getting ready for Easter. That means we're seriously getting into some theology of the cross. Theology of the Cross was at the heart of Martin Luther's theology, and if we read both the OT and NT carefully, we discover it's at the heart of God's self-revelation.
In very short:

• Theology of the cross is about God's own self-revelation, especially in Christ crucified. Theology of the cross is about God's often hidden, sacramental, paradoxical (try to define paradoxical?) presence in the comment things, people, and situations. All of us have experiences of being able to look back onto a tough, hard, unpleasant situation and in retrospect recognize God was there all the time at that time.

• Theology of glory is about human ideas and imaginings of how a powerful, all-knowing, sovereign God might act. How humans wish God would behave?

This section of Philippians starts out with the Apostle Paul's / St. Paul's / Saul of Tarsus' résumé, CV, biography. I mentioned but again need to emphasize that 98% of the time for Paul "law" means the sacrificial and dietary laws and circumcision. He does not mean the Ten Commandments or Jesus' Great Commandment capsule summary.

4:9 different translations read either "faith in Christ" or "faith of Christ," but faith of Christ that's about Jesus infinite faithfulness probably is more accurate.

He goes on to describe how he wants to become like Jesus Christ. We need to remember Paul does not use the words disciple or follower or similar; for him it's always about being "in Christ," the organic incorporation into Jesus' death and resureection that God accomplishes in each of us together at our baptism. Pastor Peg told us how she loves [3:10] the "power of his resurrection" and I commented power is the dynamite word and that for Paul, the gospel is Death and Resurrection.

Not surprising discussion about ways to live with the past and the future. We absolutely need to learn from the past, dream of the future, but we actually have only this very moment, the here and now.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Lent 4C

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

16From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Intro

This past Thursday was the mid-point of Lent. Although all six Sundays are in but not of Lent, the fourth Sunday especially is a time of respite and refreshment before the final penitential push to Maundy Thursday when Lent ends and the three day Triduum begins. Each of the Sundays in Lent have a unique name based on the first word of the traditional Latin introit; this fourth Sunday is Laetare, "rejoice." Rather than penitential purple, the liturgical color for vestments and paraments is lighter, brighter rose that we can use on Advent 3.

Texts for the Laetare introit come from Isaiah 66:10-11 and Psalm 122:1
Isaiah 66:10 "Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her,
all you who love her;
rejoice greatly with her,
all you who mourn over her.
11 For you will nurse and be satisfied
at her comforting breasts;
you will drink deeply
and delight in her overflowing abundance."

Psalm 122:1 I rejoiced when they said to me,
"Let us go to the house of the LORD."

reflections and discussion

The gospel for today includes Luke 15:11-32, the waiting father, prodigal younger son, resentful older brother parable. In the canonical gospels, we find this story only in Luke.

Let's look at the second reading from 2 Corinthians that's also about reconciliation, forgiveness, new beginnings, restorations. I love the idea of our being baptized into Christ and becoming a new creation!

The apostle Paul tells us way back when (maybe before Paul got into his high Christology?) people considered Jesus only from a human perspective, "according to the flesh," which isn't bad at all, but it's very low-level basic, first rung of the ladder. We know Jesus Christ as fully human and fully divine. Paul parallels looking at Jesus in a more comprehensive way and considering each other more completely. Paul does not use the word disciple or apostle or follower of Christ; he says we are "in Christ," which is about our organic incorporation into Christ that begins with our baptism. Well, it actually began 2,000 years ago. Because we all are "in Christ," we are more than just human, too!

5:18, 19, 20

The word Paul uses for reconcile, reconciliation is not so much about making everything even and equal as in settling $$$ or other accounts; it's closer to a new beginning on common ground, making a commonwealth, with common cause. Pastor Peg pointed out this text does mention forgiveness.

The Greek for world here – cosmos – means more than simply this planet earth we live on; it refers to everyone and everything. All people, plants, animals, revise, oceans, deserts—everyone! everything! all creation!

An ambassador, [envoy, representative] gets sent out of their own country to represent it in a foreign country. God calls us out and sends us out to do the same ministry of reconciliation that Jesus did!

Several people mentioned South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission that according to wikipedia "was a court-like restorative justice body assembled in South Africa after the abolition of apartheid in the 1990s." It formed a model for a similar entity, Post-Genocide Justice and Reconciliation in Rwanda.

Pastor Peg said it's always possible to forgive, but for various reasons, reconciliation sometimes is not possible. The person or entity may not available, or it might not be healthy to reconcile with the party involved.

Regarding the concept of reconciliation, I mentioned reconciling financial books.