Monday, August 27, 2018

Pentecost 14B

John 6:56-69

56Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." 59He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

60When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?" 61But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend you? 62Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But among you there are some who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him.65And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father."

66Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" 68Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
Today marks the fifth Sunday in a row of chapter 6 of John's gospel! John is the gospel of abiding presence, the gospel that (maybe particularly) emphasizes the incarnation, enfleshment, embodiment of the pre-existent, eternal logos. Today we move from Jesus' "I am" declarations (that equate him with Yahweh's "I am" revelation to Moses) to the disciples "You are / Thou art" the Holy One of God.

Pentecost 10 • 29 July • John 6:1-21

verse 1 going over to the other side
2 signs
4 almost passover
9 five barley loaves & two fish / twelve baskets of leftovers
19 Jesus walks on water / "I am"

Pentecost 11 • 05 August • John 6:24-35

24 crowd to Capernaum seeking Jesus
26 "you ate your fill"
30 sign, work, manna = not from Moses
35 "I am" the bread of life

Pentecost 12 • 12 August • John 6:35,-41-51

35 "I am" the bread of life
41 Jesus complained
42 Joseph's son / from heaven?
49 your ancestors ate manna and died
51 eat my bread and never die / my flesh for the life of the world

Pentecost 13 • 19 August • John 6:51-58

51 "I am" the living bread from heaven / bread for the life of the world
58 eat my flesh, drink my blood, abide, life forever.

Pentecost 14 • today – 26 August • John 6:56-69

56 eat and drink = mutual abiding
58 bread from heaven
59 teaching in synogogue
60 difficult teaching, saying = hard logos
62 human one ascending = In John's gospel, Jesus' ascension is his lifting up on the cross and not his ascension into heaven we read about in Luke / Acts
63 Spirit gives life / flesh is useless does not negate John's and the church's celebration of the human body, but instead refers to the conventional human viewpoints, similar to the Apostle Paul's telling us we're still looking at everything in human terms.
68 To whom can we go?
69 You are the Holy One of God – "I am"

The historical question of the original setting in time and place (and purpose, to the extent we can figure it out) of a passage always is our first question when we read scripture, before we apply or discern the passage as God's word to us and for us. Jesus' disciples later would be with him in the upper room when he broke bread and told him it was his body, when he poured wine and declared it the cup of the new covenant, but that hadn't happened yet; Jesus' disciples would not have heard this chapter in Eucharistic terms, though the contemporary church often does. During distribution of the sacrament, the contemporary church often sings Sr. Suzanne Toolan's "I am the Bread of Life" based on John 6.

We call Jesus "Lord". In Saxon England, the Lord provided the loaf, the bread, the sustenance to the community.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Pentecost 13B

Proverbs 9:1-6

1Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars. 2She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table. 3She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls from the highest places in the town, 4"You that are simple, turn in here!" To those without sense she says, 5"Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. 6Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight."

Hebrew Bible Overview

As we mentioned last week, the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible has three main sections:

1. Torah or Pentateuch, the first five books, sometimes called Books of Moses, not because Moses could have written them, but because parts of them focus on Moses as liberator of God's people.

2. Prophets include Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings—the former prophets; and the writing prophets or latter prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel plus the Book of the Twelve or the Minor Prophets that are minor in length but not minor in content.

3. Writings, a miscellaneous collection that includes Psalms, Proverbs, Chronicles, Job, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Song of Solomon...

1, 2. Pentateuch and Prophets both carry a sense of an authoritative, revelatory Word of the Lord; Pentateuch brings us creation accounts, stories of patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God's people Israel in mired Egyptian slavery, their exodus or departure from Egypt, Ten Commandments twice, journey to the edge of the Promised Land. Prophets bring us disruptive words from heaven, promises of a future, of death and resurrection. Pentateuch and Prophets emphasize God's covenanting with humanity and with all creation.

3. Writings are not a coherent body of literature; the official canonical content even varied some over the years. Among other angles, they bring us human words to God and human speech about God. They have a sense of discerning God's work in the world from observing creation and social structures, a sense of what we learn from living daily life. Some books report narrative events (Chronicles, Nehemiah, Ezra, Esther for example) or address God in temple or another worship context as the Psalms do.

Proverbs

Although the Proverbs belong to Israel's religious literature, they're not about covenant or temple, but for the most part they're practical advice for living with integrity or wholeness in community. The Proverbs reveal structure, order, continuity of creation and of all life. The book's 31 chapters contain short essays like the one we'll read and hear today, metaphors, similes, memes/ cultural pieces of different types; poems.

Some bibles say King Solomon wrote the Proverbs; most likely they're from many different authors over a span of 400 years. In a similar way to Moses' connection with liberation, Israel correlated Solomon with wisdom, and some of the content of Proverbs probably is from the united kingdom monarchy of Saul, David, and Solomon. Wisdom in Proverbs and in the other scriptural wisdom books of Job and Ecclesiastes isn't so much head knowledge as it is heart- and foot knowledge—the sense of how life comes together people often gain after they've journeyed for a while.

During this year of grace, we'll read several selections from Proverbs, so I'll probably repeat this basic outline.

Proverbs 9:1-6

Today's reading from Proverbs aligns with Jesus' declaration that he is the Bread of Life. As Barbara pointed out, sometimes we try to read too much into simple passages of scripture. The woman in this story is not vegetarian.... but just as Jesus does, she offers radical, fully inclusive hospitality and welcome to everyone without exception. In both Hebrew and in Greek, the noun for wisdom is feminine. We have the biblical number 7 in this reading.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Pentecost 12B

1 Kings 19:4-8

4But Elijah himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: "It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors." 5Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, "Get up and eat." 6He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. 7The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, "Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you." 8He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.

More About Sources

When we discussed the Manna from Heaven narrative we find in Exodus last week, I used the technical German theological word Heilsgeschichte that combines Heil=salvation and Geschichte=history and means God's action in the lives of the people, in creation, in all the world. I mentioned a huge group of people probably never left Egyptian slavery, traveled months and years through deserts trusting God every step of the way, but almost definitely quite a few small bands or tribes of people broke away from slavery or other unpleasant situations, trekked through a wilderness in trust, and afterwards told their stories that also got written down and much later became part of the larger story of The Exodus. These stories are about some of the historical (measurable in time and space) experiences of the people; they're even more about their emotional, psychological, human experience. They typically contain saga and myth and have a high degree of multi-layered density. As Pastor Peg mentioned in her sermon, scattered scrolls got compiled and edited into larger books after the Babylonian exile.

Hebrew Bible Sections

The Old Testament/Hebrew Bible is in three major sections: Torah or the five books of the Pentateuch; Prophets; Writings. Deuteronomy (the fifth book of the Pentateuch), Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings come from the same group or committee of authors we often refer to as the Deuteronomic Historian—almost definitely more than one person. Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings belong to the Former Prophets. Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and the book of the twelve (Minor Prophets in the Christian bible) belong to the Writing Prophets.

During Luke's lectionary year A, we talked about neighborology, the word about the neighbor, the other. We discussed similarities between Jeremiah and Luke in that regard. The texts the deuteronomic historian(s) gave us concentrate heavily on being good neighbors. In fact, the book of Jeremiah probably got edited by the same post-exilic committee that compiled the Pentateuch and the Former Prophets.

Hebrew Bible Writings include Job, Psalms, Proverbs. Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Esther, Daniel, Song of Solomon... I may have left out a few.

1 Kings 19:4-8

Today we're reading one of the famous Elijah stories from 1 Kings. If you'd asked me about Elijah, I'd have remembered (1)water and fire in the moat and the prophets of Ba'al; (2)God in the still small voice; and today's account of (3)bread and water for the journey. But I couldn't have told you what kind of bush or tree or shrub it was, so I researched Broom Tree. Turns out it's more of shrub than a tree; people made coals from its roots, trunks, and branches. Broom embers retain heat a long time; Elijah's bread probably baked on a fire left from an earlier traveler. I discovered broom trees symbolize renewal and resurrection; a hot fire can sear open the seeds so they germinate and begin to grow, information familiar to us in southern California where fires are a major hazard.

"Angel" means "messenger." Evangelical in the ELCA's name is the good (eu or ev) messages or news (angelical). Elijah was in a deep blue funk (long story—read what comes before this); God sent the angel who pointed out the ready to eat food because without physical sustenance the journey would be too difficult. Then there's the basic human need for community, the fact eating alone can be too lonely... but this short reading focuses on physical feeding. As it is throughout scripture, 40 days and 40 nights is approximately one month. Horeb and Sinai are the same place—which word depends upon the source.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Pentecost 11B

Exodus 16:1-15

1The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. 2The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger." 4Then the Lord said to Moses, "I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.

5"On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days." 6So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, "In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?" 8And Moses said, "When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord."

9Then Moses said to Aaron, "Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, 'Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.'" 10And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12"I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, 'At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.'" 13In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, "It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat."

Can God really set a table in the wilderness? Can God really provide a feast in the desert? Psalm 78:19b

Welcome to the eleventh Sunday after the Feast of Pentecost! We've journeyed two-thirds of the way through this Year of Grace, not only as People of LCM, but together with the entire ecumenical church, the worldwide church catholic.

Today's first reading is from Exodus, the second book of the Pentateuch, a name we give to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible: penta=5. When we include Joshua, the sixth book of the Old Testament, we can refer to the Hexateuch: hex=6. I began with a verse from earlier in Psalm 78 than the portion appointed today as our responsive psalm. (Too sad the lectionary peeps didn't include it.)

Similar to the word exit, Exodus means leaving or departure. You probably know most of the Exodus account about God's people Israel escaping slave labor in Egypt, wandering through a series of deserts in total trust of God's provision on their way to the Promised Land, receiving the Ten Commandments of the Sinai Covenant during their trek.

Let's talk about Heilsgeschichte! It's a technical German theological term that means salvation history: Heil=salvation, redemption; Geschichte=history. Heilsgeschichte brings together fairly objective, empirical facts with the lived experiences of the people, often with a sense of saga or myth; Heilsgeschichte has a far great degree of density than the cause and effect history we study in school.

In terms of the Exodus narrative, it's very unlikely a huge group of thousands of people left Egypt together in one fell swoop for the promised land under a leader names Moses. However, almost definitely quite a few smaller groups or bands of people escaped harsh conditions trying to survive under empire and spent quite a lot of time wandering through the desert in trust, relying on God's provision. The book of Exodus formally and officially got compiled from different written and oral sources after the Babylonian captivity, as a committee put together several discrete narratives. Again, the salvation history of God, people, and creation is far denser (I love that word!) than conventional history. It includes saga, myth, meaning, emotion.

At the start of today's reading, God's people have left Egypt and passed through the Sea of Reeds (sometimes called Red Sea); we've enjoyed freedom songs of Moses and Miriam; experienced Moses throwing a healthy tree branch into bitter water to make the waters at Marah potable; after the current reading they'll watch Moses strike a rock at Horeb with his shepherd's staff at God's command in order to give everyone water to assuage their thirst. In a foretaste of Sabbath-keeping, God instructs Moses, "On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days." Along with Deuteronomy, Exodus is one of our two main sources for the Ten Commandments, but they don't happen until chapter 20 of Exodus.

In Genesis we mostly encounter the people of God as a family that grows from nuclear to extended; you remember the stories of patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph in Genesis. Exodus is about identity-formation as God's people become a nation, a constituted (echoing our familiar word constitution) people. The Ten Commandments become the touchstone of their identity.

Today's text includes bread of Egypt that was counted, stockpiled, all administrated up—in our world, bread/food of empire even contains preservatives, will last almost forever, and in general isn't particularly healthy or life-giving. This Exodus passage contrasts breads and foods of Egypt/empires with the freedom bread and other types of sustenance God provides as gifts of grace. Whether four thousand years ago or right here and now in 2018, freedom bread is healthy and life-giving; it doesn't stay fresh very long, so there's no point in stockpiling or hoarding it. Steve told us an employee of a nearby grocery store mentioned they got a whole lot more bugs when they began bringing in and selling more organic food; read the rest of Exodus16 and find out what happened when the people tried to save some manna for later!

Manna is a semitic word asking "what is it?" The manna itself might have been cilantro/coriander; it could have been tamarisk. Scripture and church talk about the Kingdom of God, Reign of Heaven, Kingdom of Heaven, Reign of God. Here we read about the Rain of God, as God rains nutritious food from the sky!

Can God really set a table in the wilderness? Can God really provide a feast in the desert? Psalm 78:19b