summer solstice!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Pentecost 12A

Psalm 138

1I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise;
2I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.
3On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.
4All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord, for they have heard the words of your mouth.
5They shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord.
6For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.
7Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.
8The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Isaiah 51:1-6

1Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. 2Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, but I blessed him and made him many. 3For the Lord will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song. 4Listen to me, my people, and give heed to me, my nation; for a teaching will go out from me, and my justice for a light to the peoples. 5I will bring near my deliverance swiftly, my salvation has gone out and my arms will rule the peoples; the coastlands wait for me, and for my arm they hope. 6Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and those who live on it will die like gnats; but my salvation will be forever, and my deliverance will never be ended.

We started class by praying responsive Psalm 138.

Remember!

The gospel in one word— remember! As we continue moving through the season of the church, time of the Spirit of Pentecost in the church's year of grace, again this week we have a reading from the long book of Isaiah. We've talked about the sections of Isaiah: 1st Isaiah – before the Babylonian exile; 2nd Isaiah – during the exile; 3rd Isaiah – after the exile. Each large section is mostly by the same author; each also includes sections and verses almost definitely written by one or more other individuals. Isaiah emphasizes God's sovereignty and kingship; the entire long book brings a broad swath if universalism.

Remember! In exile, away from home, in the Babylonian (another!) empire. Everyone is discouraged and despondent, but Isaiah reminds them of their extraordinary history with God's extraordinary faithfulness. In Hebrew, listen and hear are the same word... it would be nice if that was true in English and other languages? When we get discouraged, we can remember our long histories with God. God's faithfulness, our own faithfulness, as well.

This very short passage includes many familiar images that include creation, people, places, concepts, and events: Abraham, Sarah, the exodus rock, zion, wilderness, desert, Eden, garden, righteousness, deliverance, salvation. Any of these would make an excellent scriptural word study, or a study of uses and meanings of a word. We mentioned a few of them: garden; rock; Zion; coastlands; desert; wilderness. Most of this is very geographical, physical, phenomenological. We had a long discussion about the importance of history, including if you don't remember the past, you'll probably repeat the (worst parts of) the past.

Remembering

Every time we celebrate Holy Communion (the eucharist, Lord's Supper, etc.) the Eucharistic Prayer includes a section called the anamnesis, or remembering. The anamnesis recounts the history of God and God's people. Typically it mentions creation, exodus (freedom from empire), promised land, prophets, homecoming, Jesus ' birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Another section of the Eucharistic prayer – the epiclesis – beckons and invokes the Holy Spirit to sanctify the gifts of bread and cup and indwell the gather assembly. Check out the Eucharistic Prayer printed in the Sunday worship bulletin every week!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Pentecost 11A

Psalm 67

Refrain:
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

May God be merciful to us and bless us,
show us the light of his countenance and come to us.
Let your ways be known upon earth,
your saving health among all nations.
Refrain

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity,
and guide all the nations upon earth.
Refrain

The earth has brought forth her increase;
may God, our own God, give us his blessing.
May God give us his blessing,
and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.
Refrain

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

1Thus says the Lord: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.

6And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant— 7these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. 8Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.

We began our study session by praying responsive psalm 67 that celebrates a bountiful harvest as it celebrates and reminds us of God's love for everyone everywhere.

Short overview of the long book of Isaiah that's in three distinct sections, probably by three different primary authors:

1st Isaiah – chapters 1-39 before the Babylonian exile
2nd Isaiah – 40-55 during the Babylonian exile
3rd Isaiah – 56-66 after the exile, mostly addressed to those who returned and to rebuild city, temple, and their own lives.

Despite probable distinct authorship of each section of the larger book of prophecy called Isaiah, all three include material whose style, etc. doesn't accord with the rest and that's almost definitely from another writer.

All of Greater Isaiah(!) brings us magnificent inclusive universalism that's not squishy, sweet, contentless New Age, but reveals a God who reaches out with love and mercy to all people and all creation everywhere. Together with his 8th century contemporary Amos, 1st Isaiah brings us the earliest articulating of true monotheism.

Today we hear from the opening passage of 3rd Isaiah. These verses reveal a God who loves, includes, and embraces everyone (including Israel's enemies!); we also learn about the holy demands of a holy God to do justice and righteousness, to keep Sabbath. As I said, not vapid and New Agey. From Isaiah 56:7, the cornerstone of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown LA announces "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples." This is not only ecumenical cooperation between very different, quite similar, and closely related Christian denominations—it's also interfaith, as it was during 3rd Isaiah's sixth century.

Today's lection follows Isaiah 55, the tail end of 2nd Isaiah that we studied a few weeks ago on Pentecost 6 about God's promise the word will not return to heaven empty, but shall accomplish its purpose. That chapter ends with everyone full of joy and shalom, with a restored and redeemed creation participating: singing mountains and hills; applauding trees. We'll find cypress and myrtle rather than thorns and briars!

Pastor Peg mentioned the text's opening demands to do justice and righteousness sometimes seems futile, but even very small actions add up to something much bigger. The Hebrew uses the same word for righteousness and deliverance/salvation.

We had another long discussion of Sabbath-keeping, both in the sense of keeping traditional Friday evening through Saturday evening set apart and holy, and in the generic meaning of "sabbath" we've been using as a day set apart for God, for worship, for family, (as I always emphasize) for not conceding to the demands of empire.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Pentecost 10A

Matthew 14:22-33

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Pentecost 8A

Romans 8:26-39

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

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

Psalm 119:129-136

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

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

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

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

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

Reviewing from last week

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

Today in the Church's Year of Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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