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.

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.

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.

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.
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.


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."

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.


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.


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.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Pentecost 2A

Matthew 9:35 – 10:1-8

9:35Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."

10: 1Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

5These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7As you go, proclaim the good news, "The kingdom of heaven has come near.' 8Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment."

Where We Are

We're halfway through the church's year of grace that began during calendar year 2016 on the First Sunday of Advent. Two weeks ago we celebrated the fiftieth day of Easter with the festival of Pentecost that commemorates the gift of the Holy Spirit given to the world. The next six months will be the Season of the Church acting in Jesus' name, a Time of the Spirit of Life and of Resurrection that we receive in baptism, a "green and growing season" that reflects the liturgical color green our vestments and paraments feature. Or more accurately, the current liturgical color of green mirrors the focus of this season.

Last Sunday we celebrated the Holy Trinity with Trinity Sunday. Although the bible doesn't refer to a three-in-one / one-in-three trinity or a triune God, both OT and NT strongly reveal God as triune.

Last week I mentioned during this season we'll be doing some theology of the Third Article of the Creed; both the Nicene Creed from the year 325 that probably first articulated the doctrine or teaching of the trinity, and the Apostles' Creed from about a century later outline Trinitarian theology. First article of the creed would be theology of creation; second article of the creed would be theology of redemption or salvation. Third article would be sanctification, divinization, or theosis as the Eastern churches express it.

I also suggested we'd look at some Third Spaces and Fourth Spaces theology as we develop Acts of the 21st Century Apostles in Southern California:
• First spaces: family, friends, close by neighbors, local schools, nearby workplaces
• Second spaces: a little more geographically and socially distant communities, college, university (maybe a larger high school), larger workplaces; more choices about self-revelation
• Third spaces: moving out of our comfort zones, stretching boundaries: affinity groups, clubs, different cultures
• Fourth spaces: cyberspace! with a lot of choices about what we reveal, opportunities to try on new styles and identities
In the Revised Common Lectionary that suggests our scripture readings, this is Year A, the year of the gospel account the community gathered around Matthew the tax collector brought us.

Briefly Reviewing Matthew

Matthew's gospel begins with Jesus' name Emmanuel – "God with us" – and concludes with Jesus' promise to be with us always.

Matthew's community specifically addressed Greek-speaking Jews in Antioch (then in Syria) that's geographically present-day Turkey.

With a strong Jewish-Hebrew emphasis, among other specialties Matthew presents Jesus as the new Moses and the new King David; with the flight into (and then back out of) Egypt we have a new Exodus; five large discourses in the gospel may parallel the Pentateuch, the Five Books of Moses and provide a new Torah. Before the resurrection Matthew refers to Israelites; post-resurrection, to Jews.

Matthew is the only one of the four canonical gospels that uses our word related to church, ecclesia. The ecclesia or called-out assembly was the Roman city council, the New England town meeting...

This gospel account also brings us an interesting juxtaposition because it refers to Jesus' ministry in Galilee of the Gentiles – Matthew 4:15 – and tells us gentiles will hope in Jesus' name – Matthew 12:21. Matthew uniquely brings us the visit to the baby Jesus by the Zoroastrian magi, who were both religious and ethnic outsiders. Matthew brings Jesus' Great Commission of bringing the gospel to all the nations that we heard last week.

Today's Text

Notice how Jesus (1)summons or calls his disciples; then he gives them (2)authority; then he (3)sends them out. In the power of the HS, we're also sent people, or apostles.

And then Jesus instructs the disciples to proclaim the gospel, the good news of the reign of life over death—the kingdom/ reign/ realm of heaven has come near; to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons. Recently we revisited John's gospel and Jesus' promise we'd do greater works than he did. That was on Maundy Thursday evening, shortly in the wake of Jesus raising Lazarus from death. In those Johannine passages, Jesus also told us to obey the commandments, and to love in the same way he loves us. He promised us the gift of the Holy Spirit (Advocate, Paraclete called-alongside, Counselor, Comforter —I like the concept of comforter or a quilt wrapped all around us) that would enable us to do all those amazing things, and to act in his name.

Proclamation of the Good News, the reality of resurrection, healing, etc. all evidence the presence of the reign of heaven. In the next chapter, Matthew 11:2-5, from prison John the Baptist (Jesus' cousin, who down by the riverside announced Jesus' soon to be arrival in our midst) asks his cohorts to ask Jesus if he's the real thing, or if we needed to look for someone else? Jesus advised them, "Go tell John what you hear and see (full sensory experiences): dead are raised to life; blind see; deaf hear; lame walk; poor receive good news." Those events have been going down? That means heaven among us, God's rule in our midst!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Trinity Sunday A 2017

Matthew 28:16-20

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Although Sunday we mostly discussed Jesus' Great Commission from Matthew's gospel because this is Matthew's year and we've been doing so much John, how could I not mention perichoresis? Last Friday I reposted here desert spirit's fire Trinity Sunday 2005 that also was year A. Referring to the last few Sundays will give us some Trinitarian theology, as well.


Last Sunday was the Day of Pentecost:

• 50th Day of Easter
• In the Church's Year of Grace, the Church really comes into its own
• Time of the Spirit / Season of the Church
• Green and Growing Season of almost six months of ordered, structured, organized "Ordinary Time"
• Pentecostal fervor!

During the Great Fifty Days of Easter we've read about Acts of the the early Apostles from Luke's second volume, the Book of Acts. We're revisited the upper room of Maundy Thursday and heard Jesus' commands to obey, to love as he loves, his promise we will do greater works than he did during his earthly ministry, his promise to send the Spirit (Comforter, Advocate, Counselor), to remain with us always. I like to translate "comforter" into a quilt that wraps around us. Baptism surround us with God's creative power of the Holy Spirit of resurrection so we can respond to Jesus' commandment to preach the gospel, heal the sick, raise the dead recorded in Matthew 10:7-8 and that will be our gospel reading next week on Pentecost 2.

Trinitarian Theophanies / Trinitarian Theology / Perichoresis

• Last Winter we experienced theophanies of the Trinity or manifestations, appearances of all three persons of the Trinity / Godhead at the Baptism of Jesus and at the Transfiguration
Scripture strongly implies God as Triune one-in-three, three-in=one, but the church didn't define and announce the doctrine or teaching until 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicea that gave us the NIcene Creed
• Today's Great Commission passage from the gospel we received from Matthew's community includes baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but that likely was one of many redactions or editing of Matthew's gospel that we've mentioned most likely is the most heavily redacted or edited of the four canonical gospels. The early church probably baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus or used a similar formula.
• The Trinity is a mystery! All our human attempts to compare and explain it fall way far short, but our brains still need to try.
• Today we'll sing, "Come, Join the Dance of Trinity" that's about the Perichoresis of the Trinity: peri – around, surround – choreo – dance, like in choreographer, choreogaphy

During the Season of Pentecost

We'll do Third Article (of the Creed) Theology:

• First Article – Creation
• Second Article – Redemption / Salavtion
• Third Article – Sanctification, Divinization, Theosis

We'll also talk some Third Spaces Theology as we develop Acts of the 21st Century Apostles in Southern California:

• First spaces: family, friends, close by neighbors, local schools, nearby workplaces
• Second spaces: a little more geographically and socially distant communities, college, university (maybe larger high school), larger workplaces; more choices about self-revelation
• Third spaces: moving out of our comfort zones, stretching boundaries: affinity groups, clubs, different cultures
• Fourth spaces: cyberspace! with a lot of choices about what we reveal, opportunities to try on new styles and identities

Matthew's gospel ends as it begins, with the reassurance of God with us, Emmanuel.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Trinity Sunday A 2005

This week I'm blogging twice for Trinity Sunday; I remembered writing about perichoresis, and found these notes from 2005, which also was RCL year A, and would have been from a Monday at Northminster PC(USA) in Previous City when I subbed for the usual facilitator who probably was on another trip helping out another judicatory. My first instinct was to create a new post here dated 16 May 2005 – Easter was early that year! – but this blog didn't even exist then. Besides, today's date will get more hits and help more people.

From Trinity Sunday A 2005 on desert spirit's fire!

Since I really like the notes I put together for this morning's Bible study (not that the group did much with them, but – as always – the discussion was interesting, stimulating, thoughtful and even helpful). But a note of caution: not surprisingly, I realized I potentially had enough material for a multi-volume book! And extremely surprisingly, one of the regular participants said he'd always found the concept of Trinity easy to understand. Moving on now with the study notes:

Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a

Psalm 8

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Matthew 28:16-20

Perichoresis of the Trinity

peri – around – choreo – dance

With perichoresis, the early Church described the Trinity as a dynamic and sometimes indistinguishable interpenetration, mutual indwelling, circumincession in unity, union, harmony, agreement, concord, consonance...

The Church [that's us!] as the Image of the Trinity

How does this Perichoresis relate to our lives in the world in general, our lives with other Christians, and as we interact with people of other faiths and of no faith conviction?

Word and Sacrament: the Trinity and the means of grace
  • Written word; preached word; Living Word
  • Baptism
  • Earthy, earthly elements of creation—plain ordinary water; also, anointing with oil: kings, prophets and priests in Israel were anointed and we're baptized into royal, prophetic priesthood.
  • Baptized into the Christ Event in the name of the Trinity—in 325 The Council of Nicaea defined the doctrine of the Trinity; Matthew 28:19 is the only occurrence of the baptismal formula in the Bible, added later than the late 1st century manuscripts; the early church probably baptized in the "Name of the Lord."
  • Eucharist
  • Earthy, earthly common stuff of creation! | Creator
  • Our Lord Jesus Christ...Bread of Life; Cup of Salvation | Redeemer
  • Epiclesis | invoking the Holy Spirit
The Church and the Means of Grace
  • Jesus entrusted his followers – the church – with proclaiming the Gospel in word and action, baptizing and with remembering him by breaking the bread of life and offering the cup of salvation. The Gospel of Jesus Christ also is revealed to the world when we live our daily lives as sacraments mediating between earth and heaven—this is something no one and nothing else in the world can offer! The church as a community and each of us as individuals nurtured and discipled by that community take our cues and clues from the perichoresis of the Trinity, and not from the consumer driven programmatic excesses of the world.
  • "The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered." Philipp Melanchthon, Augsburg Confession, from Article 7
  • "Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christ's institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists." John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 4, chapter 1, section 9.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Pentecost A

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

3bAnd no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit. 4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. 12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

The Day of Pentecost is the 50th Day of Easter!

• Time of the Spirit
• Season of the Church
• A Pentecostal Community filled with gifts from the Holy Spirit
• A second phase of Green and Growing Ordinary (ordered, organized, structured) Time. We experienced the first phase last winter with Sundays after the Epiphany.

During this season we'll be doing Third Article (of the Creed) theology related to the Holy Spirit. "Pneumatology" is one of the technical words for this theological category. First article theology would be theology of creation; second article, theology of redemption. Theology of the HS includes us as the called-out assembly (church/ ekklesia) and sent people (apostles / apostolos).
We'll continue to focus on the interdependence of all creation.

During this Time of the Church we're also visit some (geographical and social)
Third Space theology as we consider moving from:

• The everyday intimacy of geographical and social First Spaces that include face-to-face relationships of family, friends, neighbors on either side and across the street (even in this 21st century), local schools;
• Second Spaces that include many workplaces, university, more distant and structured settings that give us more choices about self-revelation;
• Third Spaces of affinity, trade, and professional groups that take us beyond the comfort of First Spaces and Second Spaces; at times geographically a considerable distance away with potential for greater anonymity; and for the past decade...
• Fourth Spaces – cyberspace! where you can choose to reveal who and where you are, try on new ideas and even new identities

Third Spaces and Fourth Spaces pick up on "all nations" in Jesus' Great Commission commandment at the conclusion of Matthew's gospel;.


• We've studied accounts from Luke's book of the Acts of the original apostles
• Revisited the upper room of Maundy Thursday where we've heard Jesus' command to obey and to love as he loves
• In the upper room we've also received Jesus' promise of the Holy Spirit and power—even to achieve "greater works" than Jesus himself did during his earthly ministry!
• Especially as we celebrated the Ascension (that's technically the 40th day of Easter) on the 7th Sunday of Easter, we considered the concept of ascendancy that denotes stewardship, caretaking, responsible sovereignty over all creation following the model and example Jesus gave us.

Corinth / Corinthians

The site of Aphrodite's temple! Rich, opulent, and worldly, a crossroads for international travel and commerce. The church at Corinth was full of factions and divisions. Jealousy, arrogance, and related. You get the picture?!
The two canonical letters to Corinthians are among at the apostle Paul's Seven (biblical number) undisputed epistles. The passage we read today sets the mood and the standard for our life and ministry as we move into almost six months of Ordinary Time Sundays that we number after the Pentecost event.

• The cross of Jesus Christ is central – Paul determines to preach only Christ crucified.
• The Holy Spirit gifts individuals with a wide variety of spiritual and practical gifts (vv. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 lists a few); these gifts always are for the greater good – the commonwealth or common-weal (not woe!) of the gathered community of the body of Christ. No class, cultural, education, or ethnic boundaries. The indwelling Spirit we receive in our baptism into Jesus Christ's death and resurrection engulfs us in God's creative power of resurrection.
• 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 is earliest account of Jesus' "founding meal" of the Lord's Supper; one bread, one body; worthy reception in seeking the common good; 1 Corinthians 10 and 11
• 1 Corinthians include the famous love chapter 13 that picks up on the quality of love Jesus charges us with in the gospel we received from John's community.
• The cross of Jesus Christ is central to our proclaimed and enacted theology, but so is the resurrection — learn 1 Corinthians 15!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Ascension 2017

Acts 1:1-11

1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While staying [or eating] with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. "This," he said, "is what you have heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with [or by] the Holy Spirit not many days from now."

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
On the 40th day of Easter we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension; that's a Thursday, but since most people don't go to church on Thursdays, today for Easter 7 we're hearing about the Ascension. Next Sunday, the 50th day of Easter, is the Day of Pentecost, the third of our great Trinitarian Festivals.

So far during the church's year of grace, we've studied and learned from Jesus' ministry. During the season of Easter we've experienced Jesus' gift of the Holy Spirit on Easter evening from John's gospel; twice in the gospel we received from John's community we've revisited the upper room of Maundy Thursday with Jesus' commandment to love along with his promise of the Holy Spirit (advocate, paraclete) of comfort and truth. We've had examples of the early church's ministry in the power of the Spirit. Specifically, three weeks ago on Easter 4, we heard about the apostles' preaching and teaching (no longer Jesus'!), their gathering for prayer in the kind of community that's a true "common unity" of koinonia, for "breaking of bread," that likely meant regular meals (potlucks, anyone?) as well as the Bread of Life and Cup of Salvation of the Lord's Supper.

The Heidelberg Catechism tells us we move from Christmas / Incarnation, "with the mystery of spirit in flesh" to the Ascension, "with the mystery of flesh in Spirit."

We don't often use the words ascension, ascendancy, ascent, but in easy theological terms they simply mean sovereignty, authority, stewardship. Not "lording it over" as people sometimes misinterpret dominion in Genesis 2, but caretaking and responsiveness to the needs of our human, animal, and all our neighbors – all of creation! Land, waterways, sky, etc.

During the upcoming long liturgical season of pentecost, the church really comes into its own. The gift of the indwelling Spirit enables the church to do the "greater works" Jesus promised.

The Heidelberg Catechism asks, "Why is the son of God called Jesus, meaning Savior?" And then, "Why is the son of God called Christ, meaning anointed?" And then: "But why are you called a Christian?" Answer: "Because by faith I share in Christ's anointing, and I am anointed to reign over all creation for all eternity."

In our scripture passage from Acts, Jesus' disciples ask him, "is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" Jesus essentially informs them their question is wrong and replies, "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

In the power, discernment, and reach of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost, we becomes Jesus' presence on earth and begin restoring God's reign over all creation. The HS empowers us to walk the talk!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Easter 6A

John 14:15-21

15"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. 18"I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them."

Backtracking from last week, Easter 5A:

This is very shorthand and somewhat crude, but also broadly accurate.

As I've been saying... John is the Gospel of Abiding Presence. John's gospel almost didn't make the canonical cut! The community the beloved disciple John founded conveys a different worldview from the synoptic gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

In contrast to John, despite each of them conveying at least some unique content and a particular perspective, you could say the synoptic gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke all bring us law and gospel – God's holy demands and God's mercy-filled, loving grace. We roughly can place the synoptics in the tradition of the first two parts of the Old Testament, Torah / Pentateuch and Prophets.

The third section of the canon of the Hebrew bible includes Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, Job, Ruth, Lamentations, Daniel, Song of Solomon... similar to that Writings tradition of the third part of the Hebrew Bible that we sometimes refer to as wisdom literature, John's community offers ways to live faithfully and fruitfully with speech and action that make a difference in the world—"God's abiding presence" in creation, rather than the articulation of law and gospel we find in the synoptics and in the apostle Paul's undisputed epistles.

Today's RCL text:

Easter is Fifty Days; the sixth Sunday of Easter is day 36 / 50. Last week we discussed some of Jesus' farewell discourse, including his telling the disciples they'd do greater works than he had done. Jesus never stopped talking, though our discussion ended. Today's gospel passage continues in the upper room of Maundy Thursday after Jesus had washed the disciples' feet. After Maundy Thursday, we've experience Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter, We're already more than a calendar month after the day of resurrection; besides, in today's text Jesus promises the gift of the Holy Spirit, but we already read that narrative that happened on the evening of the first Easter Day as we celebrated Easter 2.

John, the gospel of Jesus' abiding presence and of our abiding presence in creation in the power of the Holy Spirit, essentially brings us the commandment to love. But at the start of our reading for today, Jesus tells us, "If you love me, you will keep the commandments." It concludes with, "They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them."

Parallel this to:

• the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-22 – what must I do to inherit eternal life, and Jesus's keep the commandments response with the demands of the Sinai covenant.

• and Mark 10:17-22 where Jesus tells the rich guy, "You know the commandments and does a basic short list.

• with the lawyer in Luke 10:25-37 that happens after Jesus sends out the seventies, tells them share the peace; Kingdom has come near you, shake the dust off; after Satan falling from heaven... Jesus asks the expert on the law "What do you read in the law?" After love God, neighbor, and self, Jesus responds to "who is my neighbor" with the parable of Good Sam.

To be saved, made whole, have integrity, be alive as part of the commonwealth, we must obey the commandments because none of us is saved, redeemed, no one has shalom until all creation does. Hebrew bible scholar Walter Brueggemann reminds us Life first must be a gift before life is a task.

Although we already discussed Jesus' sending the HS on the evening of the first Easter, we could call today's reading, "You will get your quilt!" Jesus promises to send the paraclete, that in Greek means called (clesis) beside /alongside (para). But translations can include comforter, advocate, counselor, solicitor, attorney... all wrapped up in the assurance of God's presence in the same way a cozy quilt or comforter wraps us up.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Easter 5A

John 14:1-14

1"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going." 5Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" 6Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." 8Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." 9Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the Father'? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

As I've been saying... John is the Gospel of Abiding Presence.

In contrast to John, despite each of them conveying at least some unique content and a particular perspective, you could say the synoptic gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke all bring us law and gospel. We can consider the three sections of the canon of the Hebrew scriptures: Torah / Pentateuch; Prophets; Writings (that include Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, Job, Ruth, Daniel, Song of Solomon...) and roughly place the synoptics within the traditions of Pentateuch and Prophets, the gospel according to John's community alongside the Writings.

The worldview of John's gospel opens with "in the beginning" and tells us about the pre-existent divine logos that's about order, wisdom, prudence, strength, discernment, knowledge, discretion, honor, well-being, shalom... God's essence that fills and permeates all creation. Similar to the Hebrew tradition of wisdom literature, John's community offers ways to live faithfully and fruitfully with speech and action that make a difference in the world—"God's abiding presence" in creation, rather than the articulation of law and gospel we find in the synoptics and in the apostle Paul's undisputed epistles. Although Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God, always is enfleshed, incarnate, embodied, John's community especially makes a major point of that reality.

Easter is Fifty Days; the fifth Sunday of Easter is day 29 / 50. To some extent, for the course of the church's year of grace, the people who assembled the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) that we generally use for our texts, follow the trajectory of Jesus's life. However, today is day 29 of Easter, meaning we've already journeyed through Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and the astonishment of Eastered resurrection, but the scene we have today from John's gospel is the Upper Room of Maundy Thursday and Jesus's farewell discourse (speech, counsel, advice, "talk") to his disciples.

Discussion: how reassuring it is that Jesus tells us of his ongoing presence, and that he will prepare places for each of us. Note: He already has done so!

How wild to be revisiting Maundy Thursday, the place and time where Jesus just had washed his disciples' feet?! More than a calendar month after the day of resurrection?! We considered what the greater works Jesus referred to might be. I piggy-backed on the former Linda Vista PCUSA pastor's asking, "Where were you born? St. Mary's Hospital? Presbyterian Central? Lutheran General? Where did you go to school? Whitworth? Notre Dame? Concordia? Holy Rosary Elementary?" Those works of health and education are significant ones. A participant mentioned the mighty work of forgiveness, that permits all parties involved to continue living without getting irrevocably stuck in the past.

For John's community, resurrection isn't quite the end of the story; in a sense, ascension trumps even resurrection. As persons who live "in Christ," we also share in his ascendancy. I briefly described ascendancy as authority, sovereignty, stewardship over creation, over life, but didn't go on to quote the Heidelberg Catechism's response to "But why are you called a Christian?": Because by faith I share in Christ's anointing, and I am anointed to reign with Christ over all creation for all eternity.

As we learn from the gospel according to John, in Christ Jesus and in the power of the HS, we are part of God's abiding presence throughout creation.

For Easter 6 we'll continue Jesus' farewell discourse with John 14:15-21.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Easter 4A

Acts 2:[41], 42-47

41they gladly received the word Peter preached and three thousand were baptized on that day!

42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

So far in the church's year of grace we've experienced Advent, as we wait for God's arrival in our midst as a baby in the Bethlehem manger. Then Christmas, the feast of God's Incarnation on earth arrives and we meet the infant Jesus of Nazareth. The season of Epiphany demonstrates God's revelation to everyone, that God is God of all and not only for particular people. During Lent we revisited Jesus' earthly ministry. During Holy Week we journey to the cross with Jesus; after Lent ends on Wednesday in Holy Week, the Three Days of the Triduum – "tri duum" – starts with Maundy Thursday, on to Good Friday, finally Easter, Jesus' resurrection from death. We celebrate Easter Vigil, Easter Sunrise, Easter Day, or all three. The lectionary also appoints readings for Easter Evening, a wonderful way to close out the day and begin the Great Fifty Days of Easter that finally lead to the Day of Pentecost that's the fiftieth day.

Throughout the easter season, our first reading comes from Luke's Acts of the Apostles. This is especially interesting because the lectionary hasn't yet given us the Day of Pentecost reading from Acts 2 that describes the Holy Spirit coming to earth in wind and fire, but the activities we read about during these fifty dies demonstrate how God acted through the nascent church. Officially today's first reading begins with a description of the Christian community, but it follows 2:41 that tells about the baptism of 3,000 people! You can describe what follows as a blueprint for ways to live out our baptism—how, then, shall we live baptized?

You know some of it: worked for justice; defy empire; be God's shalom; practice resurrection. Praise and thank God, because anything we do is the work of the HS and not our own!

When we studied Luke's gospel in depth last year during Luke's lectionary year C, we discovered Luke emphasizes the Holy Spirit, carefully places everything in a historical context, focuses on women and other marginalized populations, loves prayer, makes table fellowship prominent. In his second volume of writing, the Acts of the Apostles, he continue in the same direction. However, God always acts within history; you always can identify longitude and latitude and linear clock time.

I'd planned to have a fairly extensive discussion of this text, but interim pastor kind of derailed where I planned to go by mentioning too soon this apparently was more of an ideal than a real community. I'd read the same thing in several commentaries, but wanted to ask why not aim for it, anyway, just as we always need to keep the commandments, but never will quite achieve keeping any of them.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Easter 3A

Luke 24:13-35

13Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, "What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?" They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?" 19He asked them, "What things?" They replied, "The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him." 25Then he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!" 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

This is another scripture passage the lectionary specifies for several times during the Great Fifty Days of Easter. We hear it on Easter Evening for all 3 lectionary years A B C and on the Third Sunday of easter year A (Matthew's year, this year) and year B (Mark's year).

Backtracking to Holy Week: Jews celebrating the Passover Seder as a feast along the way—out of slavery in Egypt, not yet settled in the Land of Promise. The passover meal includes foods symbolically associated with their history as people of God; sometimes Jews refer to "eating history" as they consume those foods. Matzoh that's unleavened bread baked in haste and eaten in a hurry; lamb shank for the sacrifice offered on the eve of leaving Egypt and to remember God redeeming Israel with an "outstretched arm"; egg for a pre-passover offering; bitter herbs or veggies for the bitterness of bondage; charoset mixed from apples, pears, nuts and wine to recall Egyptian bricks and mortar; salt water for tears of slavery and saltiness of passing through the Red Sea, celebratory wine. Seder participants retell the story of their liberation with tastes, textures, appearances, smells (audible splashes and crunches, too) of these symbolic foods—revisiting and re-experiencing where they've been, "eating history." These also are foods that no longer depend upon empire = are locally sourced. During the seder Israel sings or chants (ideally) or recites the celebratory Hallel Psalms, 113-118.

Hallel Psalms belong to the church's Holy Week observances. Psalm 116 is our responsive psalm for today when the Emmaus Road account recalls Jesus' founding meal of Bread and Cup on Maundy Thursday, when we also sing and hear Psalm 116.

Like passover, Emmaus Road from Luke's gospel is an account "along the way," going from one place to another, A Word on the Street. Word on the street can mean buzztalk, rumors, news bulletins, update from financial markets such as Wall Street, a.k.a. "The Street". In any case, not at your destination but not where you started out.

We had a long discussion of how wonderful that Jesus visits everyone, not only the high and mighty and famous; we talked about our inward-looking and grieving selves that often don't notice or read the signs and clues of God's presence in our midst. I emphasized again that though we refer to Jesus' post-resurrection appearances, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God, always has flesh and bones, always is enfleshed, embodied, incarnate. In addition, though we think we know the rest of the story because of our prior experiences of rebirth and resurrection and from our acquaintance with the witness of Old and New Testaments, new life always surprises us, because each time is different an we're never ever ready. I mentioned restored riparian habitats and how the forest revives after a wildfire, both very local concerns. Again, how the new creation never is pristine, but always bears evidence and scars of its prior state, frequently of its death.

When we celebrate Holy Communion / Lord's Supper every week, just as in the passover, part of our eucharistic prayer ("Thanksgiving at the Table" in our printed worship folder) includes a remembering or anamnesis that tells the story of salvation, ideally starting with creation and concluding with the eschaton, the future ultimate time of the reconciliation of all creation. This remembering place us vertically and horizontally within the history of God's people in every place and every time. As in the passover, we participate in "eating history" when we replicate Jesus' taking, blessing, breaking, and giving bread and fruit of the vine. Note: anamnesis for Easter 3 was four short lines! As Paul/ Saul of Tarsus tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, when we celebrate eucharist we proclaim, we announce, Jesus' death and resurrection. We eat history and we also anticipate the eschaton, the full realization of Jesus' reign.

Just as every year on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, next week we'll enjoy Good Shepherd Sunday; stay tuned!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Easter 2A

Easter is 50 days

Easter is 50 days, 7x7, a weeks of weeks; "7" is the number of perfection in Hebrew numerology. The day of Pentecost is the 50th day of Easter. The prefix "pent" means 50: pentagram, pentagon, etc.

Day of Resurrection is:

• 1st day of the week, day after the Sabbath, therefore, the 1st day of creation.

• 8th day of the week = 1st day of a new week; therefore, the day of a new creation

Bright Week, the week after Easter Sunday just ended. The church celebrates Bright Week as the 8th day if creation.

Many baptismal fonts have 8 sides (octagon) and demonstrate our baptism into the new creation, our baptism as a new creation In Jesus' death and resurrection.

Revised Common Lectionary – RCL

A couple of people have asked about the lectionary, so here's a very short rundown. We get our scripture readings from the revised common lectionary, "common" because most denominations use it—in common. That includes protestant mainline churches like the ELCA, UMC, PCUSA, Roman Catholic, some eastern and other Orthodox, some free churches such as baptists. Because the scripture selections are readings, hopefully they also are hearings.

The three-year cycle brings us a year that features each of the synoptic gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke. "Synoptic" means seen with a single eye, since their perspective is somewhat similar. The fourth gospel from John's community brings us a very different worldview. Each week the lectionary suggests four scripture passages:

1. usually from the Hebrew Bible, but during the fifty day season of Easter we hear from the Acts of the Apostles.

2. the psalm technically is not a reading, but our response to God's grace and good news. Sometimes referred to as "responsive psalm." Maybe you notice the choir and a cantor lead the psalm, and we always participate by singing the refrain?

3. from one of the epistles in the new testament

4. always from one of the four gospels.

John 20:19-31

19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." 26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." 27Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." 28Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" 29Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Every year on the second Sunday of Easter we hear John 20:19-31! This are accounts of two separate events. The first story happens on the evening of the day of Jesus' resurrection; the second a week later. Thomas sometimes gets called "doubting," but unbelieving or not-believing is closer to the perspective of John's community that recorded the gospel.

John is the gospel of abiding love! It starts with "in the beginning..." and tells us God "dwelt among us," pitched a tent, a tabernacle, a portable dwelling so God could travel around and be with us wherever we went. Jesus' high priestly prayer in John 17 describes Jesus' relationship with the Father, Jesus' desire to remain with us.

In John's gospel, sin is not so much transgression of or lack of conformity to the law of God as the Westminster Catechism describes sin, but a lack of abiding, a lack of trusting relationship with Jesus. And it's not only relationship and abiding with Jesus, but also with one another. The undisputed epistles of Paul have a similar sense of our being "in Christ," as he expresses it. For John's community and for Paul we move from being solitary isolated individuals to belonging within the body of Christ, not in an undifferentiated blob, but each of us bring unique gifts, make unique contributions.

Closed door, locked doors: Greek word is the same and basically means it's hard to get in. Fear again! "Fear of the Jews?" Those who killed Jesus, because after all, Jesus' disciples were Jewish. We find fear and related words hundreds of times in both testaments! Pastor Peg guessed maybe about 600 times! Just as Jesus went to find the spotless, Jesus seeks us out and finds us where we are.

Jesus bestows peace on his followers; this peace is not simply absence of conflict, but shalom, well-being, connectedness, integrity, etc.. We enjoyed a long discussion of passing of the peace during the liturgy , before we approach the Lord's table. Also how we need to extend that peace to stranger, newcomers, to everyone! "Neighborology" as we discussed last fall with Luke, Jeremiah, et al.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Transfiguration A

Matthew 17:1-9

1Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." 5While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" 6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid." 8And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."
Protestant Western Churches celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration on the last Sunday of the Epiphany season; most Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and some Anglican churches celebrate Transfiguration on August 06. Some celebrate it twice! This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday; next Sunday is the first Sunday in Lent. Transfiguration concludes what we can consider the first major portion of the church's year of grace that begins on Advent 1, continues with Christmas/Nativity, then to Name/Circumcision of Jesus; the Feast of the Epiphany; Baptism of Jesus... all these days concentrate on light, revelation, and on God as God of everyone, God for everyone.

For T-Fig we experience another Trinitarian theophany! Remember Baptism of Jesus? Remember words that include "phan"? Epiphany, Tiffany, Fantasy. Last week we talked about the many many "Holy Ordinary" events, places, and circumstances in scripture and in our own lives. With its location and the unusual happenings that swirl around it, this mountaintop Transfiguration is what we'd think of as a more typical, characteristic, not surprising (almost expected) manifestation of the divine. A class regular mentioned she didn't see HS/HG in the Matthew reading; I explained the cloud of the shekinah (a feminine noun in Hebrew) is a common OT sign of God's Spirit.

We did the classic explanation of mountains as places of revelation: Moses represents the Sinai Covenant / Law he received on Mount Sinai; Elijah received divine revelation on Mount Horeb and represents the Prophets. We receive God's fullest, most overwhelming self-revelation at Jesus' crucifixion on Mount Calvary. In his Great Commission from a mountain at the end of Matthew's gospel, Jesus promises to be with us forever and charges us to teach and baptize all nations.

Six days later may reference the Exodus 24:16 from today's first reading/hearing; Luke 9:28 tells us "now about eight ays after these sayings..." that can be approximately one week, or the 8th day / 1st day of the New Creation.

Transfiguration leans strongly into Lent. Interesting that Jesus tells his disciples to tell no one until after the resurrection [17:9]—that's a feature of Mark's gospel we call the "messianic secret." In his Transfiguration account, in Luke, Jesus – Moses and Elijah! – discuss Jesus' exodus or departure that he would accomplish in Jerusalem [19:31].