summer solstice!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Pentecost 16A

Psalm 145:1-8

1I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. 2Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever. 3Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable. 4One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. 5On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. 6The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed, and I will declare your greatness. 7They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. 8The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
After opening class with responsive Psalm 145, We began with the serendipitous start of the Philippians church. Acts 16 recounts how Paul and Timothy went to Roman colony Philippi in Macedonia, then to the river on the sabbath to find an ad hoc synagogue {if there was no local synagogue, Jews would gather at the river to form a minyan or at least to pray together}, then finding Purveyor of Purple Cloth Lydia by the riverbank, finally the baptism of Lydia and her entire family.
Acts 16

6They [Paul and Timothy] went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; 8so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." 10When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them. 11We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13On the sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home." And she prevailed upon us.
Most major cities originated and grew up alongside a river; waterways are strategic nodes of communication, commerce, immigration, and exchange of ideas. The early church always baptized in the flowing water of a river; a river is a dynamic, open system. How about our walk by faith? A participant at our August Green Faith Team meeting suggested being baptized in the Los Angeles (San Diego, Amstel, Cumberland, Chicago) River, identifying with the city beside the river banks, especially seeking the well-being of that river and that place.
Philippians 1:21-30

21For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, 26so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. 27Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, 28and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God's doing. 29For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— 30since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

The apostle Paul wrote this letter from jail or prison or (most probably) house arrest. Incarceration. Philippians is his "epistle of joy" to that church at Philippi where the Roman caesar was the default divinity. Philippians uses the word joy 16 times, Christ 50 times.

In 1:27 he counsels the Philippian Christians to live out their baptism via their public, political lives "in a manner worthy of the gospel" as witnesses to Jesus' death and resurrection—not to Rome's death-dealing imperialism. How about us? As we frequently observe during our Sunday morning discussions, even the smallest actions add up to big ones; they're synergistic— more than the sum of their individual parts!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Pentecost 15A

Psalm 103:1-13

1Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. 2Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits— 3who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. 6The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed. 7He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.

8The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 9He will not always accuse, nor will he keep his anger for ever. 10He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him; 12as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us. 13As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.

Romans 14:1-12

1Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. 2Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

5Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. 6Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

7We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. 9For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

10Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11For it is written, 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.' 12So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Psalm 103

Again the responsive psalm was our opening prayer. Psalm 103 wonderfully asks us to bless God! We often think of God blessing us, blessing all creation; how gracious of us to return the favor. Check out the long list of gifts as God forgives, heals, redeems, crowns, satisfies, renews, syndicates, justifies, bestows mercy, grace, compassion. Surprisingly, the Hebrew for "steadfast love" in this passage isn't the famous chesed we've mentioned quite a few times. It's plain old regular love. At the offertory, one of our soloists sang "O Bless the Lord, My Soul" setting of Psalm 103 from Godspell!

Being Church / Romans

We continue four months into the church's year of grace in the Season of Pentecost that's specifically time of the Spirit, Season of the Church. This year emphasizes the gospel account we received from the community surrounding Matthew, but today we'll consider another passage about living in community, living as disciples of Christ, living "in Christ" from the apostle Paul's letter to the church at Rome. You'll remember we've been hearing a lot of "ways to be church" from Jesus via Matthew; St. Paul backs it up, clarifies it all, even though he wrote Romans about 30 years prior to the C.E. 80 date we generally considerable most reliable for Matthew. Romans is Paul's carefully thought through, nature theology You may recall Romans is the seventh and the latest of Paul's undisputed epistles. That means writings that definitely carry marks of his authorship in terms of vocabulary, syntax, grammar, sentence structure. They still probably received some editing as they made rounds of different churches.

Adiaphora

Paul's letters to the various churches reveal him as pastor, church planter, circuit rider. He hadn't yet been to Rome... Today we'll consider adiaphora, or things (practices, objects, etc) that are indifferent—neither commanded nor forbidden. I said a little about the moral philosophical category of adiaphora and some about worship and liturgical practices during the Reformation in terms of Lutheran and Reformed interpretations. There was a famous incident of doctrinal adiaphora that involved Luther's sidekick Philipp Melanchthon... is only justification by faith "essential" or are there other critical doctrines?

Being Neighbors

Regarding obligations, lending, debt, oughtness, payback, last week in Romans 13:8, Paul advised us "Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law." This week's passage reminds us being in Christ is our essential identity; aside from Word and Sacrament, most ceremonial, dietary, and other practices in church and in our daily lives are neither commanded nor forbidden. They're matters of indifference, or adiaphora. However, just as we've discussed regarding neighborology, or the word about being neighbors, we need to consider the position, the needs, histories, sensitivities, and even preferences of the other.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Pentecost 14A

Psalm 119:33-40

Refrain:
I desire the path of your commandments, the path of your commandments.

33Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end. 34Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. 35Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. 36Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain. 37Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways. 38Confirm to your servant your promise, which is for those who fear you. 39Turn away the disgrace that I dread, for your ordinances are good. 40See, I have longed for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life.

Matthew 18:15-20

15"If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."

Backtracking

We prayed responsive psalm 119:33-40 to open class. Everyone confirmed this acrostic poem that begins each section with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet is the longest in the psalter. Sara suggested we almost could use a section of for each Sunday of the year! Psalm 119 celebrates the obedience and freedom we receive in the gift of Torah. Different versions and translations refer to God's counsel to us as way, law, statues, commandments, ordinances, decrees, promise, testimonies, instructions, precepts, path. Hebrew has no word for "promise!" But every Word God speaks is a promise that will be fulfilled.

After the psalm section, I did a very quick rundown of thus far in Matthew's as we've journey about 75% through this Year of Grace. We started with John the Baptist's announcement of God's (the Reign of Heaven's in Jewish Matthew's parlance) presence in our very midst. Moving forward to the angel telling Joseph to name the baby Emmanuel, "God-with-us," and then to the Bethlehem stable, the manger, a baby, this Lord, who is Heaven among us. Onto the season of Epiphany that reveals Jesus for everyone, the gospel for the entire world. Then to Jesus's public ministry, passion, death, and resurrection. The fifty days of Easter prepared us for Jesus' ascension when he assumed sovereignty over all creation and prepared to send the Holy Spirit of Life (Resurrection, Renewal) that we celebrate on the Day of Pentecost that's the fiftieth day of Easter. Matthew's gospel concludes with Jesus' promise to be God-with-us forever.

On Easter evening in the gospel according to John, Jesus bestowed the Holy Spirit on his followers and counseled them regarding forgiving and not forgiving similar to our Matthew passage today. We sometimes refer to forgiving and retaining sin, binding and loosing as the "power of the keys" or the "office of the keys."

We've received instructions from Jesus via gospel writers from the communities gathered around John and gathered around Matthew. Matthew in particular is the only gospel that refers to church as ecclesia for the called-out assembly (terminology came from the Roman City Council); Matthew brings us some explicit ecclesiology, or instructions for structure, functions, and behaviors within the church as the gathered, Spirit-Inspired people of God.

Binding and Loosing

This is an extremely famous, much-discussed and analyzed passage about a central forgiveness, renewal, and restoration-related activity God calls us to. The second weekend in September is the denomination's suggested official "God's Work, Our Hands" time to enact one of the ELCA's taglines. Pastor Peg reminded this text mostly is for church insiders, and doesn't relate to our treatment of all comers. It's about restoring and maintaining community in Christ; it's not about being a social club or group (all of which can be useful and wonderful) that people tend to leave when the going gets tough. Barbara commented "treat them like gentiles and tax collectors" jumped out at her. I replied, "But how did Jesus treat gentiles and tax collectors?! He included them! This was one of Jesus' many activities that outraged the religious and political insiders: he eats with sinners and outcasts. Pastor Peg told us she was going to emphasize just that in her sermon (and she did).

In the power of the Spirit, admonition, forgiveness, and restoration is one of many ways we live as the ongoing presence of the crucified and risen Christ in the word.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Pentecost 13A

Psalm 26:1-8

1Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. 2Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and mind. 3For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you. 4I do not sit with the worthless, nor do I consort with hypocrites; 5I hate the company of evildoers, and will not sit with the wicked. 6I wash my hands in innocence, and go around your altar, O Lord, 7singing aloud a song of thanksgiving, and telling all your wondrous deeds. 8O Lord, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides.

Romans 12:9-21

9Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
With my mostly-RCL bible study adult SS class, I basically plan to discuss the gospel reading on three out of four Sundays, so despite being fluish most of the week, I'd prepared a deft Girardian presentation of the gospel reading, Matthew 16:21-28, but at truly the last minute decided to switch over to Romans because (it seemed simpler than attempting to navigate everyone into mimesis, skandalon, and other non-transactional cross talk? Partly.) the Apostle Paul's paranetic exhortations are very in-your-face, can lead to endless discussion possibilities, and provide excellent content for our being three months into the long, green, and growing ordinary time season of Pentecost.

Responsive Psalm 26:1-8 was our opening prayer this week.

I introduced the day by again explaining the letter or epistle to the Church at Rome is the last of Paul's seven "undisputed" letters of epistles that bear unmistakable marks of his authorship in terms of vocabulary, syntax, sentence structure. And theology—Romans brings us Paul's mature, well-considered theology. It includes theology of creation, redemption, and sanctification. At this late point in the church's year of grace as we're well into the Season of the Pentecostal Spirit of Life (resurrection, renewal, sanctification, etc.), this passage provides a long list of ideas for our attitudes in Christ, and our behaviors within the community of the church and later as we continue our eucharistic lifestyle out in the world during the week.