Sunday, June 26, 2016

Pentecost 6C

Psalm 16

1Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2I say to the Lord, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you."
3As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.

5The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
6The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.

7I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
8I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

9Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure.
10For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit.
11You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy;
    in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
In the church's year of grace we're now seriously into the Time of the Church.


For the past few weeks we've been doing a continuous reading of Galatians with its emphasis on the gospel of death and resurrection, and its central theme of freedom. In Galatians the apostle Paul offers cautions about human-made laws such as sacrifice, ceremony, keeping kosher, and circumcision; last week in Galatians 3:23-29 Paul finally talks about law in the sense of the ten commandments of the Sinai covenant, as he juxtaposes law and gospel. We mentioned the three uses of the law that theologians in the traditions of the Reformation sometimes opine about.

In all of his letters, Paul makes a huge deal of our organic incorporation into Christ that happens in baptism. Today's second reading [Galatians 5:1, 13-25] brings us his famous fruits of the spirit. Check out different translations and versions of this text for some interesting ideas!


In scripture the book of 150 psalms is 5 smaller "books" compiled into larger one.

Psalm dates range from the united monarchy of Saul, David, and Solomon through the post-exilic period, possibly as late as the Persian empire. The Babylonian empire had a large repository of psalms that strongly influenced Hebrew hymnody. The Psalter was the prayerbook and the hymnal of the Jerusalem Temple and later of the synagogue.

The church throughout the centuries has prayed the psalter several times through every year in the canonical hours of the divine office.

The Psalter was the hymnal of John Calvin's Geneva Reform.

Martin Luther described the psalms as "the bible in miniature." I mentioned Galatians as "Reformation Central" – everyone knows Martin Luther's paraphrase of Psalm 46, "A Mighty Fortress is our God," as The Reformation Hymn par excellence.

A lot of the songs in all the denominational hymnals are direct psalm versions or paraphrases or at least refer to a psalm. Or two. Or three.

Psalm 16

Psalm 16 connects especially well with Galatians, as it centers on monotheism, the acknowledgment and worship of only one God, and on the joy of obedience. Psalm 16:7 and 16:9 mention the human heart, which in Hebrew biology mainly is the seat of the will rather than of the emotions as modern Westerners think of the heart.

Psalm 16:7 for us to bless the Lord who blesses us!

Psalm 16:10 is a resurrection promise —"Sheol" historically has been the place of departed spirits, with probably no further connotation.

Psalm 16:11 tells us God shows us the path of life, the life we know as obedience to the commandments, and in God's presence we find "fullness of joy." In God's right hand (God's sovereignty) we discover "pleasures forevermore."

What psalms are your favorites? I especially love the Nativity Psalms 96, 98 and 148.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Pentecost 5C

Galatians 3:23-29

23Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.


We've talked about the church at Galatia as the first ethnic church in terms of culture and geography (they also were ethnos as gentiles). The words Galatia, Gaulle, Gaelic, Celt, Celtic all come from the same root.

We've mentioned the apostle Paul almost always refers to the sacrificial law, circumcision, ceremonial law, keeping kosher when he says law, but in this passage "law" does refer to the Ten Commandments of the Sinai Covenant. The commandments are the working papers for our life together, as they set limits and boundaries.

This passage brings us a typical Reformation contrast and dichotomy between law and gospel that we try to articulate in preaching.

Theological note:

Reformation theological traditions (specifically Lutheran and Reformed) often cite three uses of the law: to draw people to Christ; to convict us of sin; to lead people to correct behaviors.

verse 28:

Jew/gentile, male/female, slave/free brings us categories that were central and critical in the Greco-Roman world at the time of this letter.

One more time:

The apostle Paul anticipated that in baptism the solitary, isolated, individual would become part of the gathered body of Christ and assume one of many differentiated roles and positions appropriate to their gifts and experience; the movement is not from solitary, isolated, individual to becoming part of an undifferentiated blob. We retain aspects of our old identity and we keep our unique gifts (food, music, accounting, administration, hospitality, art, teaching, etc.), but our baptismal identity in Christ becomes central.


the USA has a history of geographically and culturally ethnic churches, maybe especially Lutherans and Roman Catholics who brought their spoken language and culinary propensities with them. We can welcome everyone, but is it possible for LCM to becomes all things to all people? Comments about responses to the pastoral search committee questionnaires.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Pentecost 4C

Galatians 2:15-21

15We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ [more accurately, "by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ"], and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. 17But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. 19For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 20and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
Our discussion started late; several regular participants weren't in class because of traveling, because of the local Pride Festival, and because of being in the parish house but needing to continue preparing lunch. We formally wrapped up early because it was the final day the choir would sing until September and choir members needed to start getting ready earlier than they usually did, but the few of us remaining enjoyed another 20 minutes or so of discussion.

from my intro on Pentecost 2C

I 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.

II Galatians was the first ethnic church, not in the sense of Jewish–gentile ethnicity, but of different cultures.

III Gospel means Good News. For Paul, the gospel is death and resurrection.

IV 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.

V Different gospel! Mostly refers to "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 as much by human works as it was by divine grace.


One more time! God's primal people Israel and the apostle Paul always knew and always taught that salvation, redemption, always was by God's gracious initiative, God in the HS reaching out to claim humanity and creation. Sacrificial and ceremonial law, circumcision, keeping kosher, etc., were signs or symbols of God's grace.

Galatians 4:16 – best, most correct translation almost definitely is faithfulness of Jesus Christ (not faith in Jesus Christ). In other words, some of the Reformers' ideas aside, redemption is not another human work, but always the gracious initiative and work of God in the HS.

Fun Language Note:

just as in several other places in Paul's writing, 4:17 uses a construction called subjunctive of emphatic negation that expresses no, not, as strongly as possible. Translations into English include:

• may it never be

• certainly not!

• by no means!

• heck, no!

and Pastor-Scholar Eugene Peterson of The Message version fame's very vernacular—

• "hell, no!"

Monday, June 06, 2016

Reconciling in Christ Sunday

Ephesians 2:11-22

11So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision” —a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— 12remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. 17So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.


Today we celebrate the 15th anniversary of LCM becoming an RIC congregation. Aspects of today's reading from Ephesians echo a couple of our recent discussions:

• Easter 5 about the homemaking God. Advertising habits and hype aside, we don't buy or rent a home; we buy or rent a house, an apartment or a condo and make it into a home after we move in.

• Pentecost 2, last Sunday: the church at Galatia probably was the first ethnic church in terms of cultural and geographical variety (typically scripture says "ethnos" to indicate non-Jews, gentiles). This concept points towards the gift of the diversity being an RIC church brings.


The letter to the church at Ephesus bring us language of the:

• Household – the more private, intimate sphere of life

and language of the

• Public Arena – the more commercial and more political places where we sometimes go

The author of Ephesians uses the word "law" in the same way as the Apostle Paul does. Here law (ordinances, etc.) does not refer to the Ten Commandments; it means ceremonial law, circumcision, sacrificial law, keeping kosher. At no time did people ever believe anything other than God's grace saved or redeemed them. Laws, practices, rituals, ordinances were signs that pointed to God's gracious action and provision. The Santa Monica Blvd sign on the street corner is not the long physical sweep of Santa Monica Blvd itself; in fact, the small dimensions of the street sign can't contain much of anything. The sign indicates we're close to or on SMB. After an African-American tradition, I wear a silver bangle baptismal bracelet. The bracelet reminds me of my baptism, points to God's irrevocable claim on my life. Like Israel's ordinances, the bracelet has no saving power, but in an extremely limited sense, it is a sign of God's grace in my life.


This reading is full of dynamic language; we had a lively discussion about many of the words and concepts. Richard said it can be "startling" to find a church that truly welcomes and includes everyone. Pastor Peg said access jumped out at her. I mentioned how baptism changes us from being isolated, solitary, atomized individuals as it (literally) incorporates us into the organic, interconnected, interrelated One Body of Christ—not as an undifferentiated blob, but with our unique gifts, talents, perspectives, experiences, and contributions.

My paper notes include a lot more ideas I'm not including in this blog post because we never got to them in class, but I've kept and filed them for future reference.