Monday, October 24, 2016

Pentecost 23C

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

6As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

16At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! 17But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth. 18The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Brief recap: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, the "pastoral" letters attributed to Paul were not written by Saul/Paul of Tarsus, though some parts of the Timothy epistles reflect Paul's theology and bring us credible retrospective reflections on a life in ministry.

Vocabulary, grammar, syntax are not particularly Pauline. These letters bring us ecclesiology – the word about the church – with emerging church structure, instructions for officers, laying on of hands (ordination, consecration, commissioning). Famously we find instructions for women to dress modestly and be silent, assurance women will be saved by childbearing, demands that slaves obey their maters.

In Acts of the Apostles 17-20 we read a lot about the Paul – Timothy – Silas trio. Timothy, Paul's younger companion and sidekick, later became bishop of Ephesus.

Very not Paul are the references to immortality, which was a Greek-Hellenistic concept. Death and resurrection is the biblical one! In fact, for the apostle Paul, the gospel was death and resurrection. Good news!

4:6, poured out as a drink offering: The original readers would have known something about the wine/libation offered along with burnt offerings and peace offerings in the temple. This can reference Jesus' life and the lives of Jesus' followers poured out for the life of the world. Cup, chalice, also can mean one's calling, vocation, career, profession.

What is Pauline is how the Timothy letters incorporate Paul's convention of giving us mini-résumés / curriculum vitae. Also very Pauline is the emphasis on a life of faithful ministry that happened by grace, and not because of human effort. We also get cruciform imagery that brings us (thanks to Barbara's reminder last week) the vertical bar of the cross touching heaven to earth, earth to heaven, the horizontal bar of the cross connection all humanity and all creation with one another.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pentecost 22C

Intro / Backtracking

We're reaching the end of the church's year of grace. So far we've experienced Advent, the arrival of God incarnate in our midst as a tiny baby. Then onto Epiphany, the revelation of God's good news for all people everywhere. Jesus' baptism, his temptation in the wilderness, the start of Jesus' public ministry (different in all four gospels), on to Holy Week, Jerusalem, Jesus' death on Good Friday, through Holy Saturday – the day nothing happens but everything happens – then the surprise of Resurrection Sunday morning.

Easter is fifty days, a week of weeks! The day of Pentecost is the 50th day of Easter and initiates the particular reign of the Holy Spirit who brings sanctification, theosis (as the Eastern Churches describe it), divinization. We also call the season of Pentecost the time of the church.

During the green season of Pentecost we have incidents, parables, and stories from Jesus' life and ministry. Luke uniquely brings us the Waiting Father/ Prodigal Son / Older Brother that shows us God's reconciling embrace. The Good Samaritan also is unique to Luke and brings us the healing hands of God. During this part of the year of grace, we make another journey with Jesus to Jerusalem, to the cross.

Next Sunday will be another "after Pentecost," followed by Reformation Sunday, that's no longer quite solely a protestant commemoration and celebration. The following Sunday, All Saints, we especially remember the saints who have gone before us into the Church Triumphant. One more numbered Sunday after the day of Pentecost, and then it's Christ the King, Reign of Christ, when we acknowledge the sovereignty of the Crucified Jesus of Nazareth. This king reigns from a cross; with arms open and outstretched, he invites reprobate law-breakers into the divine presence. "Jesus, remember me." "Today you will be with me in Paradise."

Luke 18:1-8

1Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, "Grant me justice against my opponent.' 4For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, "Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'" 6And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

Today Luke features a persistent widow and an unjust judge. How is the unjust judge like God? Not really, though we often try to uncover and discover parallels, metaphors (not to get too Bultmannian), and similarities in the biblical parables. Luke emphasizes vulnerable, marginalized people in his gospel: widows; orphans; foreigners; immigrants; women in general… no one was in a more precarious situation than a widow, esp if her late husbands didn't leave behind a brother for her to marry.

The widow prays to the judge. Did you know pray is a legal term? Answering George: this was not a religious court; it was a secular one, like going to the county courthouse. The judge ultimately wanted to protect his reputation; God does not care about protecting God's own reputation!

Upshot? Pray always, do not lose heart. Remember the heart primarily is the seat of the will in Hebrew biology. Was it a poster of a song that reminded us Love Takes Time?! God's – and humanity's – left-handed paradoxical power of love, mercy, compassion, and true justice is much slower than so-called right-handed of violent, forceful, death-dealing power.

I referenced the long and still ongoing struggle for Civil Rights in this country and the demise of the Soviet Union. l asked if Monsanto (still a real thing when I blogged this), Bayer, GE, and related powers that be will win or will prayer, letter-writing, peaceful demonstration, ultimately win the day?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Pentecost 21C

2 Timothy 2:8-15

8Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, 9for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. 10Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. 11The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; 13if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. 14Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. 15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.

Started with a shorter version of my intro to the pastoral epistles and the Timothy letters from last week, Pentecost 20. Serious emphasis on the emerging church structure and organization we find in the pastoral letters; reminder that pseudonymity, anonymity, what we'd call "false attribution" was no big deal back then; in fact it could be a compliment to one's colleague, classmate, or teacher; it simply could indicate the author's attempt to continue writing in the style of the person cited as author.


2:8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the Dead—re-member, re-assemble the scattered pieces into a coherent whole We do this every time we celebrate Holy Communion, our "common union" in Christ. 2:9b "But the word of God is not chained." Not in handcuffs and shackles, not in fetters or imprisoned. The written word and the incarnate word are not captive to any particular place or time; they are wired for every time and every place. Part of what we do is conceptualize them for where we live and maybe esp for where our neighbors, where the newcomers to church are. The Word is free range!

There's a long series of Christian captivity letters, missive written from incarceration: Philippians; Ephesians; Martin Luther from Wartburg Castle; Dietrich Bonhoeffer; Martin Luther King, Jr; Nelson Mandela.

2:11-13 probably is a hymn already known to the recipients of the letter, very similar to the hymn inserted into Philippians that tells us Christ Jesus did not count equality with God something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant....

"Wrangling over words!" The written word can be a bit ambiguous? So God gave us the incarnate word, and continues giving the world an incarnate, enfleshed, living word through us, those baptized into Jesus' death and resurrection.

More discussion about ways we can be welcoming, be sensitive to the culture and spoken language of others, yet faithful to the gospel. Contextualizing; enculturating; translating into the vernacular.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Pentecost 20C

2 Timothy 1:1-14

1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, 2To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. 5I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. 6For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; 7for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. 8Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, 9who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality [incorruption] to light through the gospel. 11For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, 12and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. 13Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

1 Timothy, 2 Timothy Background

The two Timothy letters and the epistle to Titus sometimes are called the Pastoral Epistles. [side note: "pastoral" means rural.] The apostle Paul definitely did not write them. We need to remember authorship and literary conventions were very different in the first and second centuries, without our well-developed and very legally-tinged concepts of copyright, intellectual property, and reuse rights. The person who pulled together these letters – probably around the start of the second century – wrote them as Paul's final summary discourse with reflections, advice, and ideas. "Concluding Unscientific Postscript."

1 and 2 Timothy contain vocabulary and syntax Paul never used; some of the words are in no other NT document. Many of the words are in other second century Christian writings. The Timothy letters bring us ideas of ecclesiology or church structure—as soon as you have many people with similar goals and purposes gathered together, you need organization. We find requirements for bishops/overseers, deacons, widows—"Church Ladies". These letters famously bring instruction for women to dress modestly, to submit to their husbands, not to teach or preach or have any authority over men. To shut up! Keep quiet! Women "saved by childbearing!" Slaves are supposed to obey their masters. We also read about laying on of hands, which would be ordination, commissioning, consecration of people called to public, vocational ministry. The Timothy letters refer to immortality, a Greek or Hellenistic concept that implies lack of death. Resurrection from the dead is the Christian reality; you need to die in order to be resurrected!

He later on became Bishop of Ephesus, but before that Timothy became well-known as Paul's younger sidekick. From Acts of the Apostles 17-20, we find the Paul, Silas, and Timothy trio chilling and proselytizing in Thessalonica, Berea... everyone, everywhere, all over the place.

Where We Live

Timothy's grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice hugely influence Timothy's faith journey; they clearly had been active, committed Christians. These letters talk about the power of scripture. They help us ask about the place of biological family in our own Christian beginnings, role of the faith community or communities that surround us, the purpose and place of each of us in welcoming and nurturing newcomers to Christianity, in supporting and helping those of use who are more mature and have more experience in following Jesus.

At LCM we especially live those questions as each of us walks, prays, and talks through responses to them in this very ethnically and culturally diverse neighborhood. People from all types of backgrounds come to church, join us, often choose to be baptized.