Sunday, May 29, 2016

Pentecost 2B

Galatians 1:1-12

1Paul an apostle—sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2and all the members of God’s family who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: 3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! 9As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!

10Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ. 11For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; 12for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
I In the church's year of grace we've reached Ordinary Time. Ordered, orderly, in order, somewhat structured.
This is the green and growing "time of the church."
Preparation: Jesus Christ's birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension.
Our own baptism; weekly participation in word and sacrament. Gift of the Pentecostal Spirit of Life.

II Paul's letter or epistle to the Galatians is one of seven epistles definitely written by Paul. We call this an undisputed letter, as in undisputed authorship.
Galatians was the first ethnic church, not in the sense of Jewish–gentile ethnicity, but of different cultures.
Galatians is the Epistle of Freedom; Galatians was and still is Reformation central, vitally important to Martin Luther's theology.
Galatians has been called the Magna Carta of Christian Freedom. Just as the Magna Carta showed everyone lives under the same law and has the right to a trial, to be declared guilty or innocent, Galatians demonstrates we all live under the same law of God, with the same freedom or liberty in Jesus Christ.

III Gospel means Good News. For Paul, the gospel is death and resurrection.
Almost every single time Paul uses the word "law," he refers to circumcision, sacrificial law, ritual law, keeping kosher, ceremonial law, and not to the ten commandments.

Galatians famously brings us:

• Paul's only birth narrative: in the fullness of time God sent his son, born of a woman, born under the law. Galatians 4:4
• Neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, bond nor free, for all are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
• Fruits of the Spirit: By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23a

IV Different gospel! Mostly about the Judaizers who claimed people had to become Jewish before Christian, follow sacrificial law, be circumcised. In other words, they taught that Jesus Christ's death and resurrection was not enough, that redemption was more by works than by grace. For Paul, the gospel is death and resurrection.

V Outreach, evangelism in the church building and out in our everyday worlds: what demands do we make of newcomers? If not exactly a "different gospel" that Paul found the church at Galatia teaching, do we insist people look like us, talk like us, act like us, etc.? As the Reformers insisted, wherever you find Word and Sacrament you find the church. No Word and Sacrament? No church. No requirement for everyone to look, act, talk, think, feel the same as everyone else.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Day of Pentecost

Acts 2:1-21

1When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power." 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" 13But others sneered and said, "They are filled with new wine."

14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17'In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day. 21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.'"

Easter is 50 Days; the Day of Pentecost is the 50th day of Easter

The church's year of grace features a trio of major festivals that relate to each Person of the Trinity/Godhead:

• Christmas – Nativity – Creation

• Resurrection – Easter – Redemption

• Pentecost – Whitsunday – Sanctification / Theosis

Next week we'll celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity; after that we'll segue into the long, winding, growing greening season Ordinary Time, also known as the Time of the Church.

Last week we discussed Jesus' Ascension and the conversation (again!) beforehand. His earthly disciples asked Jesus if at this time he would "restore the kingdom to Israel," and Jesus told them to wait for the Descent of the HS and they would be his witnesses. In other words, they would help "restore the kingdom."

Remember the Golden Calf Event in Exodus 32? God said, "Moses, your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt." Moses replied, "God, your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt." Which is it? Moses' people or God's people? It's both/and.

Discussion of Icons and Images of the HS:

dove / wind / fire. Peace, comfort. Fire sears, burns, purifies. A year after a wildfire, new seedlings cover the forest floor. Some seeds need to be singed by fire in order to open. Controlled, prescribed burning by the Forest Service. Different forms wind takes. Do we resist the wind or move in its direction? Sun in your face, wind at your back?

In his book of the Acts of the Apostles Luke brings us the only scriptural account of the Day of Pentecost. The HS is prominent throughout Luke's gospel (and in Acts, of course). The apostle Paul and the gospel of John also tell us a lot about the HS.

Jesus says we will be his witnesses. What does witnessing mean? What does a witness do? Courtroom. The 12th apostle needed to be a "witness to the resurrection," someone who has experienced the risen Christ.

The past two weeks we've talked about the Church as the Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World. With its senses the world can witness – see, hear, touch, taste, smell – the church, and in the church's activity, hopefully the world will recognize the presence of God's Kingdom.

Will you at this time restore the kingdom? The question is wrong! Wait here in Jerusalem, and you shall be my witnesses. The HS makes witness possible. The converse? Without the HS there is no witness.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


On Easter 7 we discussed the Feast of the Ascension. Traditionally the Sunday after Ascension has been Exaudi, From the first word of Introit that comes from Psalm 27:

"Hearken, O Lord, unto my voice which has called out to you, alleluia; my heart declared to you: "Your countenance have I sought; I shall ever seek your countenance, O Lord; do not turn your face from me, alleluia, alleluia." The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?"
Acts 1:1-11

1In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3After 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. 4While staying 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; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."

6So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8But 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." 9When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11They 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."
Easter is 50 days; Ascension Day is the 40th day of Easter—another instance of the biblical number 40.

Ideas on ascendancy? Authority, reign, sovereignty, power, kingship, lordship.

Backtracking through the church's year of grace, we started with Advent when we wait for and anticipate God's arrival in our midst; then it's nativity /Christmas, with Jesus' birth as God-among-us. Next, Epiphany that starts demonstrating in a visible way how God is for everyone, for all the people of all the nations, not solely for God's original people Israel. Then it's Jesus' public ministry with his disciples among all kinds of people. Holy Week, the journey to the cross, Friday's crucifixion, Saturday – the day nothing happens yet everything happens – Easter/resurrection Sunday. Post-resurrection appearances begin with people Jesus knew during his earthly ministry, and then draw a broader, wider circle that embracing all people from everywhere.

Next Sunday we'll celebrate the 50th day of Easter, the Feast of Pentecost that along with Reformation is one of the major festivals of the Spirit. Finally, it's the long "Time of the Church" or Ordinary Time that mostly features green vestments and paraments that remind us of growing and becoming.

Over the past few Sundays we've discussed texts from the book of Revelation specifically in terms of how they help us learn how to live baptized amidst empire. The canon of scripture begins with tree of life, river of life, and a garden. The canon of scripture ends with tree of life, river of life, and a city.

In today's scripture passage from Luke's book of the Acts of the Apostles, again the disciples think Jesus came to restore political power and glory to Israel. Jesus tells them "the question is wrong!" and advises them to wait in Jerusalem until the power of the HS comes upon them and enables their witness as his presence over all the earth.

Charlene recapped the Golden Calf event from Exodus 32. Toward the end,
7The Lord said to Moses, "Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt! 9The Lord said to Moses, "I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. 10Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation." 11But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, "O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?..."

Last week we talked about the PC(USA)'s Great Ends of the Church that conclude with the Church is the Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World. That's us!

The Heidelberg Catechism tells us by faith we share in Christ's anointing—anointed to reign with Christ over all creation for all eternity.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Easter 6C

Revelation 21:10, 22 - 22:1-5

Revelation 21

10And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.

22 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.

Revelation 22

1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Easter is 50 days, a week of weeks, 7 x 7. The Easter season began with accounts that mostly featured people who followed Jesus during his earthly ministry. As the weeks rolled by, the stories reached further outward, and began embracing people from other places and cultures. Two weeks from now we'll celebrate the 50th day of Easter, the Day of Pentecost (wear red!) that initiates the long "Time of the Church" liturgical season, with its mostly green Sundays. Everyone is an insider to God; God has no outsiders.

We've been discussing Revelation as a kind of guidebook, almost a roadmap (but not quite) for living baptized amidst empire. Last week we talked about a God so in love with creation God chose and still chooses to live with and to "indwell" creation; a God so passionate about creation God even chose to live amidst creation as one of us in a body formed out of the stuff of the earth.

Last week: enthronement psalms, with creation as God's dwelling place, God's temple, "throne." Last week Revelation 21:3 told us God makes a home on earth.

Genesis 1 and 2, the first books in the canon of the bible bring us the original creation with:

• tree of life
• river of life
• a garden

Revelation, the last book in the biblical canon, bring us the new creation with:

• tree of life
• river of life
• a city (is this a new Garden of Eden? Not quite.)

Today's text from Revelation brings us a portrait of a city literally descending from heaven. A city of safety, a place that welcomes and includes everyone. A city where it's light and bright all the time, without the dangers night and darkness in an urban area often bring.

What are characteristics of a city?

• ethnic and cultural and income diversity • buildings of every kind • government on local, regional, national levels (esp these days) • a literal crossroads with multiple ports of entry • infrastructure, "streets and roads" and other services • cash economy rather than a barter economy, etc.

As we read the bible, we discover a lot of very similar passages in different books. Today's reading from Revelation is very similar to one from Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a priest in the holiness tradition of the Jerusalem temple. By the time God gave Ezekiel this vision, the Jerusalem temple was gone, sacked and destroyed by Babylon, yet Ezekiel trusts this glimpse of a restored creation where God dwells, with similar imagery to the enthronement psalms.
Ezekiel 47:1-12

1Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. ... 7As I came back, I saw on the bank of the river a great many trees on the one side and on the other. ... 9Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes. ... 12On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.
We've been discussing Revelation as kind of a guidebook to living baptized amidst empire. The Presbyterian Church (USA) brings us the six Great Ends of the Church that essentially focus on our baptismal call and covenant: worship; word and sacrament; working for justice, righteousness, truth; identifying with a community of faith; caring for and nurturing all creation. But the sixth Great End is "The Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World." That means when the world looks at us, the church, it looks like the best place possible, it looks like heaven on earth. As Barbara exclaimed about the city in Revelation, "who wouldn't want to go there?" When people look at us as the church, is it "who wouldn't want to go there?"

Discussion of different ways to welcome newcomers to worship without being too intrusive.

One more note on stewardship of creation:

• In the wilderness exodus narrative, we read about water from the rock; manna and quail from the sky that were sheer gifts from God.

• The promised land with its rivers, hills of grain, trees (pomegranate, fig, olive, date), milk and honey required people who had received it a gift to care for and steward it.

• God has given us land and waterways as gifts; God calls us to careful stewardship of all creation.

We've started a list of 52 ways to steward the earth; the poster is in the narthex so we can add our own line items.