Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Advent 4C

Luke 1:39-55

39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."

46And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

Three weeks ago on the first Sunday of Advent, the Church began a (Happy) New Year of grace. Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent; this year Christmas is on Tuesday, so we have less than two days to wait for Jesus' birth.

This is Revised Common Lectionary year C, Luke's year, so most of our gospel readings come from the Gospel According to Luke. As we journey through calendar year 2019, we'll get a good taste of Luke's perspective, Luke is a synoptic account that views Jesus' life and ministry in a similar manner to the gospels according to Mark and Matthew, despite all three having pronounced distinctives.

Luke uniquely brings us three canticles that essentially are psalms or songs:

• Mary's Magnificat: "My soul magnifies the Lord; he has put down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly..." –Luke 1:46-55

• Zechariah's Benedictus: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; he has visited his people." –Luke 1:67-79

• Simeon's Nunc Dimittis: "Lord, now let thy servant depart in peace; mine eyes have seen they salvation, which thou hast prepared..." –Luke 2:29-32

Psalm Notes

You may remember the psalter is the synagogue's prayer book or hymnal; rather than divine words addressed to humanity, psalms are human words addressed to God. The psalter was the hymnal for John Calvin's Geneva Reform; many of the hymns in our current cranberry red hymnal are directly based on psalms; many many others contain an allusion or reference to one or more psalms. Every week our worship service includes a psalm or portion of a psalm. Technically those are not scripture lessons or readings, but responses, as in "responsive psalm."

Magnificat

Among other specialties, Luke emphasizes women, prayer, the Holy Spirit, and history. Today for the psalmody and the gospel reading, we hear Mary's Holy Spirit-inspired canticle called the Magnificat. We've mentioned how well people knew and memorized scripture two millennia ago; although we have the words Luke wrote, it's very likely Mary sang a very similar song because this passage is closely based upon Hannah's song in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. In other words, Mary would have been so familiar with large chunks of scripture, she'd have been able to recite and paraphrase them, making those texts her own.

Magnificat is Latin for making larger, magnifying, making greater. Like a magnifying glass; same root as "magnificent." The office of Vespers/Evening Prayer (that's ideally prayed just at sunset) in the liturgy of the canonical hours always includes a spoken or sung Magnificat.

Neighborology – the word about the neighbor, the word for the neighbor – is another strong theme throughout Luke. Mary's description of how the world will change when Jesus arrives promises no more super-rich, no more super-poor, because there is enough for everyone if those rich folk don't insist on keeping more than they need. Mary anticipates how The Ground is Level at the Foot of the Cross.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Advent 3C

Luke 3:7-18

7John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, "We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." 10And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" 11In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise." 12Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, "Teacher, what should we do?" 13He said to them, "Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you." 14Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what should we do?" He said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages."

15As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." 18So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Two weeks ago on the First Sunday of Advent, the church started a new year of grace. Today we hear about John the Baptist from Luke 3:7-18 as he instructs people (a brood of vipers who need to repent) how to get ready for the arrival of God in their midst in the person of his cousin Jesus.

Do you remember John and Jesus were very close in age? J the B's official church birthday is June 25, right after the summer solstice; although Jesus's birth likely was during the season of spring, we celebrate his birthday right after the winter solstice, on December 25. Birthdays of increasing and decreasing light symbolize nicely John's observation, "Jesus must increase, I must decrease." Actions of Jesus' followers – ordinary, everyday lives of those baptized with water and with fire – become a big aspect of Jesus' presence increasing and growing on earth.

People in general imagine doing things the world will consider amazing, nut Jesus' cousin tells us to get ready for The Coming One by living life simply where we already are and sharing essentials like clothing and food. He doesn't even advise tax collectors and soldiers who are in the employ of the occupying Roman government to quit their jobs that potentially oppress and even could bankrupt people. We basically need to bloom where we're planted, and do everything the best we can with fairness and righteousness.

Two Sundays ago in my intro to Luke's gospel, I mentioned he emphasizes:

• neighborology – the word about the neighbor! The actions towards the neighbor! During Year C the lectionary includes quite a few readings from jeremiah and Deuteronomy that also emphasize the neighbor, the other, living together faithfully in covenantal community.

Would God among us not be an alleluia moment, a time to sing praises?! In this riverside narrative, John the Baptist has people preparing for God's arrival in their midst by starting to live as he knew Jesus would teach us to be and to act; when that happens, everyone will shout alleluias!

• Starting with John the Baptist down by the riverside counseling people to share what they have with others in order to prepare for the arrival of God in our midst, we find a lot of "social gospel" throughout Luke. However, this isn't let's see how many good works we humans can accomplish on our own; it's always about the indwelling and outgoing power of the Holy Spirit.

Today's gospel reading anticipates the same Luke's Acts of the Apostles where everyone has everything in common, where members of the nascent church literally provide for the common good. Acts includes some pretty amazing accounts of missions to distant places, too, but more than anything, it's about serving the people, right here in this very place, giving of ourselves and our excess. This is the outcome of the presence in our lives of the One who baptizes with cleansing water and purifying fire. Our everyday lives become part of the magic of the ordinary for our neighbors.

Just as Matthew never lets up on justice and righteousness, Luke never lets up on living for the other, for the neighbor, correcting the imbalance of some having more than they need, others trying to get by with less. Early on in Luke's

Acts 2

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.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Advent 1C • Luke

Advent

On the first Sunday of Advent, the church begins a new year of grace. Happy New Year!

Every year Advent opens with a splash of apocalyptic scripture, signaling the end of the world as we know it. No more status quo, the beginning of a new way of living and being—the world is about to turn. Some time during this Advent, we'll probably sing Canticle of the Turning that's based on Mary's Magnificat.

Blue, the color of hope, is the official color for Advent. Although it includes a theme of repentance, the season of Advent is especially about hope. In Spanish esperar/espero means wait, hope, and expect. We hope for and anticipate not a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays as the rest of the world sincerely might wish us; we hope for the incarnation of mercy, grace, and love. Instead of the rest of the world's irenic peace that's more or less a temporary cease-fire, we hope for, wait for, and expect the fullness of shalom the Prince of Peace brings us. We hope for the dawn of the new creation the death and resurrection of the Prince of Peace will initiate.

This is Revised Common Lectionary Year C, Luke's year. Luke is a synoptic gospel that views Jesus' life an ministry in a similar manner to Matthew and Mark.

Luke's Gospel

Luke is the only Gentile, non-Jewish writer in the entire New Testament. Luke was a highly educated physician, but think "bronze age" in terms of sophistication. Luke wrote a two-volume account, a gospel and the book of the Acts of the Apostles. We often refer to Luke-Acts as one word.

Luke's particular perspective includes an emphasis on:

• world history and Jewish history

• Luke brings us Jesus' genealogy that ends with Adam, son of God. Luke's human Jesus and divine Christ both minister to each one's body and spirit.

• presence and activity of the Holy Spirit – the HS has been prominent throughout the Bible's witness, but Luke-Acts brings a fulfillment of God's reign in the Spirit

• prayer

• women

• marginalized people of every class and type, the underclass.

• table fellowship.

• neighborology – the word about the neighbor! During Year C the lectionary includes quite a few readings from jeremiah and Deuteronomy that also emphasize the neighbor, the other, living together faithfully in covenantal community.

• Starting with John the Baptist down by the riverside counseling people to share what they have with others in order to prepare for the arrival of God in our midst, we find a lot of "social gospel" throughout Luke,. However, this isn't let's see how many good works we humans can accomplish on our own; it's always about the indwelling and outgoing power of the Holy Spirit.

Luke includes three psalm-like songs or canticles based on Old Testament sources:

• Mary's Magnificat, "My soul magnifies the Lord; he has put down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly..." – Luke 1:46-55

• Zechariah's Benedictus, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; he has visited his people." – Luke 1:67-79

• Simeon's Nunc Dimittis: "Lord, now let thy servant depart in peace; mine eyes have seen they salvation, which thou hast prepared..." – Luke 2:29-32

Uniquely in Luke we find:

• Sermon on the Plain – Luke 6:17-49, which emphasizes the physical re-distributive justice and material well-being. Matthew's parallel Sermon on the Mount is more about spiritual well-being.

• Good Samaritan – Luke 10:25-37

• Prodigal Son – Luke 15: 11-32

• Stones cry out Luke – 19:37-40

• Emmaus Road in Luke's post-resurrection account takes us back to the Maundy Thursday Upper Room and to Luke's many accounts of Jesus' table fellowship with all comers – Luke 24:13-35

We concluded class by reading the first section of the assigned gospel for Advent 1C. Rather than coming from the beginning of Luke's gospel, this is Jesus speaking toward the end! We hear about signs and symbols coming alive in nature/creation; we'll soon celebrate the birth of Jesus who is not a god in nature, but God and Lord of nature.

Luke 21:25-28

25"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."