Monday, December 18, 2017

Advent 3B

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

1The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; 2to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3to provide for those who mourn in Zion-- to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory. 4They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

8For I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.

10I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

Short explanation again of how Hebrew bible prophets technically spoke against the ruling status quo – political, economic, social, religious. Prophets also called people to repentance, to turn around and change the style and direction of their lives. But more than anything, prophecy announced God doing a new thing, the inbreaking of the reign of heaven, resurrection from the dead! This week's particular proclamation is exactly that: urban rebirth; rebuilding cities from ruins and blight and devastation; reversing, turning upside down, the community's sorrow, grief, lack of initiative. Resonating with the universalism we find throughout the entire book of Isaiah, these words affirm God does all this for everyone, everywhere!

Verse 11 in the Hebrew uses the word sprout three times: earth sprouts; garden sprouts; righteousness sprouts.

Interesting how this passage uses three different words for God/Lord: Yahweh; Adonai; Elohim

I had so many notes and ideas about this amazing passage from 3rd Isaiah, who wrote for the people who'd returned from exile in Babylon and also for the people who never left Jerusalem, but had stayed behind. However, we can't do everything every week or any week, so at least I pointed out how in Luke's gospel, Jesus' reading and commenting in the synagogue on these promises via Isaiah opened Jesus' public ministry.
Luke 4:14-21

14Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 16When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." 20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

As I'd planned, we took time to discuss our most memorable and meaningful advent and Christmas memories and traditions. I mentioned Blue Christmas again, because this time of year is unhappy, difficult, and challenging for many people who hardly can wait until the media and local blitz of carols, decorations, and festivities ends.

Stayed tuned for next week, Advent 4, and the Magnificat from Jesus' mother Mary / Miriam!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Advent 2B

Mark 1:1-8

1The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; 3the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'"

4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

We opened with the responsive psalm:

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

1Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. 2You forgave the iniquity of your people; you pardoned all their sin. (Selah)

8Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. 9Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. 10Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. 11Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. 12The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. 13Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.

Overview of Mark's gospel from last week...

Review and reminder: Mark's the gospel for the texting and tweeting crowd. Gospel originally was the returning Roman general's victory announcement of wiping out his enemies—a proclamation of death and destruction. Mark was the first to subvert that concept of gospel into God's victory of life over death, the triumph of resurrection.

With the season of advent the church begins a new year of grace and prepares for Jesus' birth at Christmas.

Luke's gospel starts out with genealogy and then moves onto the angel's annunciation to Mary, the birth of John the Baptist, Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, shepherds, angels... the traditional nativity manger scene.

Matthew's gospel begins with genealogy, an angel speaking to Joseph in a dream about Mary's pregnancy – " do not fear", the famous visit by magi from the east, flight into Egypt with Jesus as a refugee.

John begins with the pre-existent logos that's also a type of birth account.

Mark skips all that early stuff and brings us a wilderness scene of John the Baptist by the riverside.

Mark 1 is "the beginning of the good news..." is this chapter the start, or is the entire book of Mark with its 16 chapters the beginning of the good news? Probably! Because the good news continue for centuries, up until today in the 21st century as we become angels or messengers of the gospel!

Discussion of style, context, and content of the ministry of John the Baptist, Jesus' cousin. Locusts and grasshoppers in the bible are the same thing. John as a nature guy, outside the social and religious establishment, outside polite society. On the edges of the margins.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Advent 1B

Mark 13:24-37

24"But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26Then they will see "the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. 27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. 28"From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.

30"Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32"But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."

With the start of the new church year, we spent a fair amount of time with an overview of the gospel according to Mark; here's a short blog for Advent 1.

Today with the first Sunday of Advent, the church begins a new year of grace. Blue is the color for Advent; blue is the color of hope. Advent with its hope is a harbinger of Easter, the fulfillment of hope. Every year the scripture readings open Advent with a splash of apocalyptic, signaling the end of the world as we've known it—the end of death, destruction, empire, violence, exploitation.

Remember apocalypse, apocalyptic, apocalypticism? Revealing, uncovering, unveiling. Apocalyptic literature usually includes code words and images we need to interpret or unwrap on a level beyond the obvious. The passage from Mark's gospel that opens Advent this year 2017 comes from the middle of Mark's passion narrative!

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Mark RCL Year B Intro

As the earliest and shortest and most immediate of the four canonical gospels, Mark is the one for the texting and tweeting crowd!

Although all known manuscripts carry the heading The Gospel According to Mark, it's probably not by Peter's ministry companion John Mark, but from an unknown author (or group thereof).

Prior to Mark, good news or "gospel" was the returning Roman general's announcement of annihilating the other army's troops. This gospel according to Mark subverts that into the Good News of God's victory over the powers of sin and death, the triumph of the reign of life.

Probably written from Rome to Greek speaking gentile Christians, maybe as early as 45 C.E., almost definitely no later than 60 C.E..

Between them, Matthew and Luke include 631 of Mark's 661 verses. We find about 90% in Matthew; 50% in Luke. A year ago we talked about a possible source called Q for the first letter of the German Quelle meaning source or river. Was there a Q? Not known. Was Mark Q? Probably not.

No birth narrative; no resurrection account.
Mark doesn't mention Joseph, Jesus' earthly father.
Mark includes a lot of miracles, healings, and exorcisms.
Mark famously features the Messianic secret – Jesus' don't tell anyone!

Just as in Matthew and Luke, Mark's Jesus loves to refer to himself as "Son of Man" – the Human One. Daniel, Ezekiel, Enoch.

After his baptism followed by 40 days in the wilderness (also in Matthew and Luke), Jesus calls disciples Simon, Andrew, James, and John; then his first act of public ministry is casting out a demon in the midst of a synagogue service.

Just as for Luke, in Mark's gospel the journey to Jerusalem and the cross is intentional and incessant.

Mark particularly brings us God coming near to humanity and to all creation. Think of how central the Jerusalem temple was to economic, political, and religious life. God no longer is far away, behind the clouds, ensconced, contained, and protected in the temple. But then again, all the gospel accounts are about God-with-us, God-among-us, God-for-us...

Where do we look for God? Where do we find God?

Not in the temple – but on the cross
Not in established religious, economic, political institutions – but outside the city limits, in the wilderness. In the stranger and outcast. In, with, and under all creation.
In the mainline church and in mainstream society? Can we answer that question?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Reign of Christ • Christ the King A

Responsive Psalm 95 was our opening prayer

Psalm 95:1-8a

Refrain: We are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

1O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 2Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! Refrain

3For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 4In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. Refrain

5The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed. 6O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! Refrain

7For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice! 8Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness... Refrain

Matthew 25:31-46

31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.

34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.'

37Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' 40And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'

41Then he will say to those at his left hand, "You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'

44Then they also will answer, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' 45Then he will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

The church has journeyed through another year of grace; today we conclude with the feast of Christ the King / Reign of Christ / the Sovereignty and Rule of the Crucified and Risen Jesus of Nazareth. I strongly suggested everyone read the commentary from Sundays and Seasons printed on the back of our worship bulletin.

We don't talk much about royalty – kings, queens, etc. Or do we? We know particularly the British royals are well aware of their positions of service to the people. What about others in authority? Government leaders such as presidents, prime ministers, senators, mayors, members of parliament, city or town council— in a democracy, the people elect most of those leaders, so technically their decisions are supposed to respond to the will of the people. Bosses in a workplace? Manager, supervisor, CEO... Church? In most mainline church polities, voting members of the congregation elect the governing board (council, session, consistory, vestry). In episcopal polity that designates the minister of word and sacrament as "rector" or ruler rather than pastor, that person wields a kind of authority the pastor in most Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc. churches doesn't have. However, the resident pastor – whether interim or settled – is responsible for the theology that goes down.

Today is the last Sunday in Revised Common Lectionary Year A that features the gospel we received from the community gathered around Matthew. What are some of Matthew's features?

Matthew begins with Jesus' genealogy, and then emphasizes Jesus as God-with-us, from the time an angel instructs Joseph to name the baby Emmanuel, to the end of the gospel account when Jesus promises to be with us always, and then send us, his followers, out to be his ongoing presence in the world. Although Luke's gospel features the role of women, including Jesus' mother Mary, Matthew tells us quite a lot about Jesus' stepfather Joseph.

Matthew uniquely brings us a visit by the magi from the east, demonstrating Jesus as Savior for all. Only Matthew brings us the flight into Egypt, where Jesus becomes a refugee. Matthew emphasizes Jesus as the new King David and as the new Moses, the new liberator. Pastor Peg reminded us Matthew's Jesus does a lot of teaching and explaining. I mentioned by the time Matthew's community recorded this gospel, the second Jerusalem Temple had been destroyed, but it still was standing during Jesus' earthly life.

Next week we start a new year of grace with the first Sunday of Advent and the gospel according to Mark.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Pentecost 24A

Matthew 25:14-30

14"For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.

19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, "Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.' 21His master said to him, "Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'

22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, "Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.' 23His master said to him, "Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'

24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, "Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' 26But his master replied, "You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

The church has almost cycled through another year of grace! Today is the next to last Sunday for this liturgical year. In the Revised Common Lectionary that provides our scripture readings we're concluding Year A, Matthew's year, that like the others intersperses some readings from the gospel according to John. The RCL is ecumenical, meaning many different church bodies and denominations follow it. Next Sunday we'll celebrate Christ the King / Reign of Christ / the Sovereignty of the Crucified and Risen Jesus of Nazareth. And then it will be Advent.

Today we hear another famous parable, this one's about talents and has received a wide range of interpretations. Originally a talent was a huge amount of money—one source I found said it was about twenty years' wages, but of course that would vary depending the person's job and skill. Using that guideline, five talents would be 100 years' pay! We get the word talent that refers to someone's natural gifts and abilities from the Greek word in this parable.

Jesus does not open with "the kingdom of Heaven / God is like," so this is not a parable of the Kingdom or Reign of God. The account starts out about money and a worker's wages; the master in the story is not God or Jesus. The way the money economy still goes down, if money is making money, someone is being exploited, so Torah and Jewish culture forbade charging interest on a loan. Not only excessive interest or usury—forbidding any interest percentage whatsoever. So the concept of "investing" money in a securities, commodities, or any other market would have been against the counsel of Torah.

A class member pointed out the master gave no instructions, but simply handed out money. One commentary I read (that Pastor Peg also had seen and mentioned) suggested the guy who got only one talent had been a good and faithful steward and held onto the money, had not violated Torah guidelines by trying to make more money with it, and even informed the master about the master's reputation, prophetically speaking truth to power, and got cast out of society. Commentary suggested that guy could be a model for Jesus himself! Someone mentioned they'd only heard this (stewardship?) parable applied to our native gifts and abilities, and that's definitely one type of talent we need to invest and cultivate in time, training, education, practice, some of which take actual money, too.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Pentecost 23A

Matthew 25:1-13

1Jesus said to the disciples, "Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6But at midnight there was a shout, "Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' 7Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish said to the wise, "Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' 9But the wise replied, "No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.'

10And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, "Lord, lord, open to us.' 12But he replied, "Truly I tell you, I do not know you.' 13Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Two more Sundays and we'll have cycled through another year of grace in the church! Next week will be Pentecost 24; then on the last Sunday of this year of grace, we'll celebrate Reign of Christ / Christ the King before we move into another season of Advent, into Revised Common Lectionary Year B when we feature the gospel according to Mark that's the earliest and shortest of the four canonical gospels.

Let's begin with the Apostle Paul's reminder from 2 Corinthians 6:2 that reminds us now is the "acceptable time, the day of salvation." Today, this instant, is the time to repent, forgive, start making restitution—the time of action, time of doing justice and righteousness God calls us to through the prophet Amos 5:24 in the first reading for today. Paul picks up on God's promise in Isaiah 49:8a that in a favorable time, a day of salvation, God will answer us and help us. That's right now. It's today.

Like the characters in Matthew's allegory we need to wait, but we also need to take life-giving, merciful, loving, justice-enhancing action Jesus calls us to in the Beatitudes as we wait. Interesting the lectionary juxtaposes this wedding attendants story with Amos' call to cascading righteousness and justice.

Last week for All Saints Sunday we again heard the "Blessed are" Beatitudes from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Maybe you've heard them referred to as Be-Attitudes?

Jesus addresses his parable or allegory to his "disciples," to us. Yes, we need to wait for the second coming of Christ Jesus tells us about, but it's not passive waiting. The "end times" are the end of the world as we know it; the end of violence, injustice, and exploitation that we know too well. The dawn and beginning of the new world of peace-filled shalom, distributive (and other forms of) justice for all, integrity and purposefulness for all creation. The end times are a gateway or open door to the new creation.

Our discussion placed this passage in context of the beatitudes, and in the context of Jesus' talk about end times or eschatology (the word about "last things") in the previous chapter, Matthew 24. Also looking forward to Reign of Christ where Jesus tells people whenever anyone gave a cup of water to the least of these, visited those in prison, etc. they (we, us, you, me) did those merciful and life-restoring actions to him. We talked about the massacre at First Baptist Sutherland, Texas last Sunday. This past week all over social media people said "thoughts and prayers" were not enough. They needed to hear about the end of gun violence, the reform of the NRA, repeal of existing gun laws, etc. Take action! Be God's hands, feet, voice, presence in the world!

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Reformation 500

Jeremiah 31:31-34

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord.

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the Lord," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Opening Prayer from J.S. Bach's Cantata No. 79; this was the choir anthem and our sending hymn – ELW 840.

Now thank we all our God,
with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done,
in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers' arms
has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.

Martin Rinkart, ca. 1636; translation by Catherine Winkworth

This year's Reformation Sunday / Reformation Day is Reformation 500! Class was less formal and structured than usual. We discussed God's promise of newness and restoration, of resurrection from the dead through the prophets—especially through 2nd Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.

I mentioned how today's revised common lectionary texts fit well with Jesus' promise of constant presence with us via the gospel we received from John; how they mesh with this year's featured gospel according to Matthew that starts out with Emmanuel, God-with-us, concludes with Jesus' promise to be with us always and his Great Commission charge to us to be his witnesses and presence everywhere on earth. Over the past 4 weeks we studied passages from Philippians; today also fits well with the Apostle Paul's close identity with the crucified and risen Christ, his longing to be "in Christ' to such an degree he shares in Jesus' death and resurrection.

I asked again how we know God is with us; like last week, (for once) I wanted a specific answer: word and sacrament. Beyond a nice, calm, smug, or satisfied feeling, Word and Sacrament remain earthbound, physical evidence we can sense (smell, hear, taste, see, touch) God is here. With us.

Observations about Luther and other reformers acting as God's agent through the Holy Spirit of life, renewal, restoration, and resurrection. Church always is situated in place and time; we discussed the geography of how we're the only church on this plot of land, this longitude and latitude; talked about the chronology of countless other valid expressions of the church around the world, hundreds in this city.

I asked especially about dreams for LCM, for this neighborhood, and this city. All Saints' Sunday next week!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Pentecost 20A

Psalm 96

Sing a new song for God, all the earth! Sing a new song! Sing a new song!
Sing a new song for God, all the earth! Sing a new song! Sing a new song!

Declare God's glory,
and bless God's name.
Tell the story day after day for God is coming, oh, oh,
here among us, oh, oh!

Let the sky and earth be glad.
Creatures of the sea and land.
Come and make a joyful noise,
ev'rything that has a voice!
Let the sky and earth be glad,
creatures of the sea and land.

And the fields are celebrating,
in their joy the crops are waving,
and the forests singing in rhythm,
ev'ry tree can hold the vision!

Paraphrase and music by Richard Bruxvoort-Colligan

Matthew 22:15-22

15Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" 18But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19Show me the coin used for the tax." And they brought him a denarius. 20Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" 21They answered, "The emperor's." Then he said to them, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." 22When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

Creation Psalms

The lectionary appoints Psalm 96 and two other creation-focused psalms 98 and 148 every year for the feast of the nativity, incarnation, the celebration of God-among-us that begins in a spectacularly paradoxical way with baby Jesus in the Bethlehem manger. Those psalms bring us all creation celebrating the prospect of the new and more loving human stewardship and caretaking of creation that will happen as a result of Jesus. As Hebrew bible scholar Walter Brueggemann says, "Of course the forests clap their hands! No more clear-cutting! Of course oceans rejoice! No more pollution!"

we've traveled far in the church's year of grace...

in this Season of the Spirit of Pentecost, Time of the Church, in the gospel according to Matthew:

After the famous genealogy, Matthew starts out with the angel telling Joseph to name the baby Emmanuel, God-with-us.

At the end of the gospel, Jesus promises to be with us always, and sends us into the world (Great Commission) as his crucified and risen presence. Our readings from John's gospel have emphasized abiding in Jesus. That's more than simple assent, more than plain "believing," more than basic trust. As the apostles Paul would have it with his expression "In Christ" (and with the Philippians passages we've considered over the past month), it's total surrender to Jesus, a kind of melting into him and his way of life, identifying and living into his death and resurrection. Remember, for the apostle Paul, the gospel is Death and Resurrection.

Back to Matthew:

Today's scripture passage has us in Holy Week.

• "The Lord has need." Matthew 21:1-3

• Daughter of Zion, your king is coming to you. Matthews 21:5

• 21:8-9 Palm branches, Hosanna to the Son of David

• 21:10 "When he entered Jerusalem...." who is this?

• 21:11 the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee

• 21:12-17 Cleanses the Temple – "den of robbers" in verse 17 left for Bethany

• 21:18-22 curses the fig tree // verse 22, whatever you pray in faith shall be given to you

• 21:23-27 Enters the Temple, questions about John's baptism verse 17 "neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."


• 21:28-32 vineyard workers

• 21:33-46 Vineyard with watchtower, kills slaves, kills the son; 21:42 stone the builders rejected

Matthew 22

• 22:1-14 Wedding Banquet. 22:9 go into the streets and invite everyone. 22:12 How did you get in here without a wedding robe?

• 22:15-22 today's political practical text

• Last Sunday we heard 22:34-40 the greatest commandment: 37 = God 38 = neighbor as ourselves. The lectionary assigns this text for Pentecost 21, but next Sunday we'll be celebrating Reformation rather than Pentecost 21.

• continuing in Matthew: more parables

Monday, October 16, 2017

Pentecost 19A

Philippians 4:1-9

1Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. 2I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Moving toward the conclusion of the church's year of grace! This Revised Common Lectionary Year A emphasizes the gospel we received from the community gathered around Matthew. At the start of Matthew an angel instructs Joseph to name the baby "Emmanuel," God-with-us; at the very end, Jesus promises to be with us forever, "Lo, I am with you always." And, of course, we know Jesus' promise through Luke of the Holy Spirit of life, of resurrection, of abiding presence the world received in a spectacular manner on the day of Pentecost and that we as the church bring to the world around us. John's gospel also brings us God's abiding presence in the Spirit.

Texts appointed for Pentecost 19A also include Psalm 23, "Thou art with me" // "You are there" in Joel Martinson's version we sang on Sunday.

One last discussion for now of the apostle Paul's letter to the beloved church at Philippi where we was founding pastor and probably a kind of mission developer. Philippians is the "epistle of Joy," with joy or its cognates occurring at least 16 times. We refer to Philippians as a captivity letter; Paul wrote this epistle from incarceration—possibly house arrest, possibly a dungeon, yet despite circumstances, he maintains confidence in God's ongoing presence in his life and work along with assurance of his essential identity in Jesus Christ. Philippians 4:8 brings us one of Paul's famous lists: true; honorable; just; pure; pleasing' commendable; excellence; worthy of praise...

Discussion: How do we know God is with us? What physical, sensory evidence do we have that can taste, see, feel, smell, hear God-with-us, God in our midst, God's presence with us? For once I wanted a specific response! God self-reveals and is present to us in holy ordinary stuff of creation—water, grain, fruit of the vine. The sacraments model how God comes to us in everyday physical, "means" or vehicles.

How does the world know God is with everyone and with all creation? How does the world perceive God in its midst?

Monday, October 09, 2017

Pentecost 18A

Philippians 3:4b-14

4If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith [or faithfulness of] in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Knowing You, Jesus

All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this

Knowing you, Jesus
Knowing you, there is no greater thing
You're my all, you're the best
You're my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord

Now my heart's desire is to know you more
To be found in you and known as yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All-surpassing gift of righteousness

Oh, to know the power of your risen life
And to know You in Your sufferings
To become like you in your death, my Lord
So with you to live and never die

Graham Kendrick • Copyright © 1993 Make Way Music

This is the 18th Sunday after the Festival of Pentecost! We're five months into the Time of the Church in the Church's Year of Grace. On the Day of Pentecost we had red paraments and vestments; almost everyone wore red to church. In three weeks we celebrate another major "wear red" festival of the Spirit— Reformation 500! Red also is the liturgical color for commemoration of martyrs.

Today we continue in the Apostle Paul's letter to the church at Philippi. As founding pastor, he writes from prison (house arrest?) with yearning and compassion, conveying his identity in Jesus Christ's death and resurrections is central.

Three of the gospels include an account of Jesus' birth. For Paul, the gospel is death and resurrection! His seven undisputed (authentic) epistles include only a single birth narrative:

4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. Galatians 4

Today's passage starts out with one of Paul's famous lists; this one is tells us his credentials: Notice it includes seven (the number of perfection) elements. You remember his Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5: 22-23, his works of the flesh just before in Galatians 5:19-21? Paul's list of how love behaves in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8?

For Paul, the gospel is death and resurrection. In this passage to the Philippians church he founded, he reminds them "what's really important" in life.

Discussion that included how many people with ample wealth are generally unhappy; many with limited financial means have joy and composure. Pastor Peg observed how Jesus still thought of others, even as he was dying on the cross. How about us?

Monday, October 02, 2017

Pentecost 17A

Psalm 25:1-9

Refrain: To you I lift up my soul; to you I open my life. I give my trust, I give my hope to you.

Teach me the way of holiness;
my eyes are ever on you.
Teach me the way of honesty;
my eyes are ever on you.

Your perfect love as old as time;
we live in your covenant love.
Your faithfulness as old as times;
we live in your covenant love.

Psalm paraphrase by Richard Bruxvoort-Colligan

Philippians 2:1-13

1If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

9Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
12Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Pentecost 16A

Psalm 145:1-8

1I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. 2Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever. 3Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable. 4One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. 5On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. 6The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed, and I will declare your greatness. 7They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. 8The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

After opening with responsive Psalm 145, we began with the serendipitous start of the Philippians church. Acts 16 recounts how Paul and Timothy went to Roman colony Philippi in Macedonia, then to the river on the sabbath to find an ad hoc synagogue {if there was no local synagogue, Jews would gather at the river to form a minyan or at least to pray together}, then finding Purveyor of Purple Cloth Lydia by the riverbank, finally the baptism of Lydia and her entire family.

Acts 16

6They [Paul and Timothy] went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; 8so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." 10When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.

11We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13On the sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there.

14A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home." And she prevailed upon us.

Most major cities originated and grew up alongside a river; waterways are strategic nodes of communication, commerce, immigration, and exchange of ideas. The early church always baptized in the flowing water of a river; a river is a dynamic, open system. How about our walk by faith? A participant at our August Green Faith Team meeting suggested being baptized in the Los Angeles (San Diego, Amstel, Cumberland, Chicago) River, identifying with the city beside the river banks, especially seeking the well-being of that river and that place.

Philippians 1:21-30

21For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, 26so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

27Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, 28and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God's doing. 29For God has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— 30since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

The apostle Paul wrote this letter from jail or prison or (most probably) house arrest. Incarceration. Philippians is his "epistle of joy" to that church at Philippi where the Roman caesar was the default divinity. Philippians uses the word joy 16 times, Christ 50 times.

In 1:27 Paul counsels the Philippian Christians to live out their baptism via their public, political lives "in a manner worthy of the gospel" as witnesses to Jesus' death and resurrection—not to Rome's death-dealing imperialism. How about us? As we frequently observe during our Sunday morning discussions, even the smallest actions add up to big ones; they're synergistic— more than the sum of their individual parts!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Pentecost 15A

Psalm 103:1-13

1Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. 2Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits— 3who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. 6The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.
7He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.

8The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 9He will not always accuse, nor will he keep his anger for ever. 10He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him; 12as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us. 13As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.

Romans 14:1-12

1Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. 2Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

5Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. 6Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

7We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. 9For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

10Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11For it is written, 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.' 12So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Psalm 103

Again the responsive psalm was our opening prayer. Psalm 103 wonderfully asks us to bless God! We often think of God blessing us, blessing all creation; how gracious of us to return the favor. Check out the long list of gifts as God forgives, heals, redeems, crowns, satisfies, renews, syndicates, justifies, bestows mercy, grace, compassion. Surprisingly, the Hebrew for "steadfast love" in this passage isn't the famous chesed we've mentioned quite a few times. It's plain old regular love. At the offertory, one of our soloists sang "O Bless the Lord, My Soul" setting of Psalm 103 from Godspell!

Being Church / Romans

We continue four months into the church's year of grace in the Season of Pentecost that's specifically time of the Spirit, Season of the Church. This year emphasizes the gospel account we received from the community surrounding Matthew, but today we'll consider another passage about living in community, living as disciples of Christ, living "in Christ" from the apostle Paul's letter to the church at Rome. You'll remember we've been hearing a lot of "ways to be church" from Jesus via Matthew; St. Paul backs it up, clarifies it all, even though he wrote Romans about 30 years prior to the C.E. 80 date we generally considerable most reliable for Matthew. Romans is Paul's carefully thought through, mature theology You may recall Romans is the seventh and the latest of Paul's undisputed epistles. That means writings that definitely carry marks of his authorship in terms of vocabulary, syntax, grammar, sentence structure. They still probably received some editing as they made rounds of different churches.


Paul's letters to the various churches reveal him as pastor, church planter, circuit rider. He hadn't yet been to Rome… Today we'll consider adiaphora, or things (practices, objects, etc) that are indifferent—neither commanded nor forbidden. I said a little about the moral philosophical category of adiaphora and some about worship and liturgical practices during the Reformation in terms of Lutheran and Reformed interpretations. There was a famous incident of doctrinal adiaphora that involved Luther's sidekick Philipp Melanchthon… is only justification by faith "essential" or are there other critical doctrines?

Being Neighbors

Regarding obligations, lending, debt, oughtness, payback, last week in Romans 13:8, Paul advised us "Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law." This week's passage reminds us being in Christ is our essential identity; aside from Word and Sacrament, most ceremonial, dietary, and other practices in church and in our daily lives are neither commanded nor forbidden. They're matters of indifference, or adiaphora. However, just as we've discussed regarding neighborology, or the word about being neighbors, we need to consider the position, the needs, histories, sensitivities, and even preferences of the other.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Pentecost 14A

Psalm 119:33-40

I desire the path of your commandments, the path of your commandments.

33Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end. 34Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. 35Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. 36Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain. 37Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways. 38Confirm to your servant your promise, which is for those who fear you. 39Turn away the disgrace that I dread, for your ordinances are good. 40See, I have longed for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life.

Matthew 18:15-20

15"If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

18Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."


We prayed responsive psalm 119:33-40 to open class. Everyone confirmed this acrostic poem that begins each section with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet is the longest in the psalter. Sara suggested we almost could use a section of for each Sunday of the year! Psalm 119 celebrates the obedience and freedom we receive in the gift of Torah. Different versions and translations refer to God's counsel to us as way, law, statues, commandments, ordinances, decrees, promise, testimonies, instructions, precepts, path. Hebrew has no word for "promise!" But every Word God speaks is a promise that will be fulfilled.

After the psalm section, I did a quick rundown of thus far in Matthew as we've journeyed about 75% through this Year of Grace. We started with John the Baptist's announcement of God's (the Reign of Heaven's in Jewish Matthew's parlance) presence in our very midst. Moving forward to the angel telling Joseph to name the baby Emmanuel, "God-with-us," and then to the Bethlehem stable, the manger, a baby, this Lord, who is Heaven among us. Onto the season of Epiphany that reveals Jesus for everyone, the gospel for the entire world. Then to Jesus's public ministry, passion, death, and resurrection. The fifty days of Easter prepared us for Jesus' ascension when he assumed sovereignty over all creation and prepared to send the Holy Spirit of Life (Resurrection, Renewal) that we celebrate on the Day of Pentecost that's the fiftieth day of Easter. Matthew's gospel concludes with Jesus' promise to be God-with-us forever.

On Easter evening in the gospel according to John, Jesus bestowed the Holy Spirit on his followers and counseled them regarding forgiving and not forgiving similar to our Matthew passage today. We sometimes refer to forgiving and retaining sin, binding and loosing as the "power of the keys" or the "office of the keys."

We've received instructions from Jesus via gospel writers from the communities gathered around John and gathered around Matthew. Matthew in particular is the only gospel that refers to church as ecclesia for the called-out assembly (terminology came from the Roman City Council); Matthew brings us some explicit ecclesiology, or instructions for structure, functions, and behaviors within the church as the gathered, Spirit-Inspired people of God.

Binding and Loosing

This is an extremely famous, much-discussed and analyzed passage about a central forgiveness, renewal, and restoration-related activity God calls us to. Pastor Peg reminded this text mostly is for church insiders, and doesn't relate to our treatment of all comers. It's about restoring and maintaining community in Christ; it's not about being a social club or group (all of which can be useful and wonderful) that people tend to leave when the going gets tough. Barbara commented "treat them like gentiles and tax collectors" jumped out at her. I replied, "But how did Jesus treat gentiles and tax collectors?! He included them! This was one of Jesus' many activities that outraged the religious and political insiders: he eats with sinners and outcasts. Pastor Peg told us she was going to emphasize just that in her sermon (and she did).

In the power of the Spirit, admonition, forgiveness, and restoration is one of many ways we live as the ongoing presence of the crucified and risen Christ in the word.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Pentecost 13A

Psalm 26:1-8

1Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. 2Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and mind. 3For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you. 4I do not sit with the worthless, nor do I consort with hypocrites; 5I hate the company of evildoers, and will not sit with the wicked. 6I wash my hands in innocence, and go around your altar, O Lord, 7singing aloud a song of thanksgiving, and telling all your wondrous deeds. 8O Lord, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides.

Romans 12:9-21

9Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.

17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

With my mostly-RCL bible study adult SS class, I basically plan to discuss the gospel reading on three out of four Sundays, so despite being fluish most of the week, I'd prepared a deft Girardian presentation of the gospel reading, Matthew 16:21-28, but at truly the last minute decided to switch over to Romans because (it seemed simpler than attempting to navigate everyone into mimesis, skandalon, and other non-transactional cross talk? Partly.) the Apostle Paul's paranetic exhortations are very in-your-face, can lead to endless discussion possibilities, and provide excellent content for our being three months into the long, green, and growing ordinary time season of Pentecost.

Responsive Psalm 26:1-8 was our opening prayer this week.

I introduced the day by again explaining the letter or epistle to the Church at Rome is the last of Paul's seven "undisputed" letters or epistles that bear unmistakable marks of his authorship in terms of vocabulary, syntax, sentence structure. And theology: Romans brings us Paul's mature, well-considered theology. It includes theology of creation, redemption, and sanctification.

At this late point in the church's year of grace as we're well into the Season of the Pentecostal Spirit of Life (resurrection, renewal, sanctification, etc.), this passage provides a long list of ideas for our attitudes in Christ, and our behaviors within the community of the church and later as we continue our eucharistic lifestyle out in the world during the week.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Pentecost 12A

Psalm 138

1I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise;
2I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.
3On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.
4All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord, for they have heard the words of your mouth.
5They shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord.
6For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.
7Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.
8The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Isaiah 51:1-6

1Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. 2Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, but I blessed him and made him many. 3For the Lord will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.

4Listen to me, my people, and give heed to me, my nation; for a teaching will go out from me, and my justice for a light to the peoples. 5I will bring near my deliverance swiftly, my salvation has gone out and my arms will rule the peoples; the coastlands wait for me, and for my arm they hope. 6Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and those who live on it will die like gnats; but my salvation will be forever, and my deliverance will never be ended.

We started by praying responsive Psalm 138.


The gospel in one word— remember! As we continue moving through the season of the church, time of the Spirit of Pentecost in the church's year of grace, again this week we have a reading from the long book of Isaiah. We've talked about the sections of Isaiah: 1st Isaiah – before the Babylonian exile; 2nd Isaiah – during the exile; 3rd Isaiah – after the exile. Each large section is mostly by the same author; each also includes sections and verses almost definitely written by one or more other individuals. Isaiah emphasizes God's sovereignty and kingship; the entire long book brings a broad swath if universalism.

Remember! In exile, away from home, in the Babylonian (another!) empire. Everyone is discouraged and despondent, but Isaiah reminds them of their extraordinary history with God's extraordinary faithfulness. In Hebrew, listen and hear are the same word... it would be nice if that was true in English and other languages? When we get discouraged, we can remember our long histories with God. God's faithfulness, our own faithfulness, as well.

This very short passage includes many familiar images that include creation, people, places, concepts, and events: Abraham, Sarah, the exodus rock, zion, wilderness, desert, Eden, garden, righteousness, deliverance, salvation. Any of these would make an excellent scriptural word study, or a study of uses and meanings of a word. We mentioned a few of them: garden; rock; Zion; coastlands; desert; wilderness. Most of this is very geographical, physical, phenomenological. We had a long discussion about the importance of history, including if you don't remember the past, you'll probably repeat the (worst parts of) the past.


Every time we celebrate Holy Communion (the eucharist, Lord's Supper, etc.) the Eucharistic Prayer includes a section called the anamnesis, or remembering. The anamnesis recounts the history of God and God's people. Typically it mentions creation, exodus (freedom from empire), promised land, prophets, homecoming, Jesus ' birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Another section of the Eucharistic prayer – the epiclesis – beckons and invokes the Holy Spirit to sanctify the gifts of bread and cup and indwell the gather assembly. Check out the Eucharistic Prayer printed in the Sunday worship bulletin every week!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Pentecost 11A

Psalm 67

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

May God be merciful to us and bless us,
show us the light of his countenance and come to us.
Let your ways be known upon earth,
your saving health among all nationsRefrain

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity,
and guide all the nations upon earth.

The earth has brought forth her increase;
may God, our own God, give us his blessing.
May God give us his blessing,
and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

1Thus says the Lord: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.

6And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant— 7these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. 8Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.

We began our study session by praying responsive psalm 67 that celebrates a bountiful harvest as it celebrates and reminds us of God's love for everyone everywhere.

Short overview of the long book of Isaiah that's in three distinct sections, probably by three different primary authors:

1st Isaiah – chapters 1-39 before the Babylonian exile
2nd Isaiah – 40-55 during the Babylonian exile
3rd Isaiah – 56-66 after the exile, mostly addressed to those who returned and to rebuild city, temple, and their own lives.

Despite probable distinct authorship of each section of the larger book of prophecy called Isaiah, all three include material whose style, etc. doesn't accord with the rest and that's almost definitely from another writer.

All of Greater Isaiah(!) brings us magnificent inclusive universalism that's not squishy, sweet, contentless New Age, but reveals a God who reaches out with love and mercy to all people and all creation everywhere. Together with his 8th century contemporary Amos, 1st Isaiah brings us the earliest articulation of true monotheism.

Today we hear from the opening passage of 3rd Isaiah. These verses reveal a God who loves, includes, and embraces everyone (including Israel's enemies!); we also learn about the holy demands of a holy God to do justice and righteousness, to keep Sabbath. As I said, not vapid and New Agey. From Isaiah 56:7, the cornerstone of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown LA announces "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples." This is not only ecumenical cooperation between very different, quite similar, and closely related Christian denominations—it's also interfaith, as it was during 3rd Isaiah's sixth century.

Today's scripture reading follows Isaiah 55, the tail end of 2nd Isaiah that we studied a few weeks ago on Pentecost 6 about God's promise the word will not return to heaven empty, but shall accomplish its purpose. That chapter ends with everyone full of joy and shalom, with a restored and redeemed creation participating: singing mountains and hills; applauding trees. We'll find cypress and myrtle rather than thorns and briars!

The opening demands to do justice and righteousness sometimes seems futile, but even very small actions add up to something much bigger. The Hebrew uses the same word for righteousness and deliverance/salvation.

We had another long discussion of Sabbath-keeping, both in the sense of keeping traditional Friday evening through Saturday evening set apart and holy, and in the generic meaning of "sabbath" we've been using as a day set apart for God, for worship, for family, (as I always emphasize) for not conceding to the demands of empire.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Pentecost 10A

Matthew 14:22-33

22Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, …

24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25And early in the morning Jesus came walking toward them on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear.

27But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I {I am}; do not be afraid." 28Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." 29He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30But when Peter noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!"

31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" 32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

Today we come from the death of Jesus' cousin John the Baptist followed by Jesus feeding the huge throng of 5,000 that likely added up to a total of 15,000 hungry, needy people. All three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) include those two stories; only Matthew and Mark include very similar versions of today's account of Jesus walking on water and Peter's desire (attempt?!) to walk on water.

From the angel instructing Joseph to name the baby Emmanuel, "God with us" to Jesus' own promise to be with us always at the end of Matthew, God's presence is one of Matthew's major themes.

Today's walking on water / Peter afraid again is another one we've heard countless times. I hope we can get beyond "you need to get out of the boat if you want to walk on water // you need to keep your eyes on Jesus all the time" stereotyped, banal, shallow interpretations to more substance. Of course we do need to leave the boat to walk on water (or maybe not?); keeping our eyes on Jesus and listening to his words rather than noisy media is essential.

We sometimes use the analogy of the church as a boat. LCM's and many other church sanctuaries and worship areas have been constructed in the form of an upside-down ship. We even refer to the section of the sanctuary where worshippers sit as the "nave," same source as the word "navy." Interesting class observations about sudden squalls and other mini- micro-storms on the Sea of Galilee, Long Island Sound, Iowa, and elsewhere. But never along the expanse of the always calm Pacific Ocean.

14:27 Most non-Greek bibles tell us Jesus said something like "it is I; this is me," yet he really only announced "I am," more than echoing Yahweh's response to Moses asking (what sort of appeared to be a new god in the pantheon), "Who shall I tell my people sent me? What shall I say your name is?" So Jesus not only echoes, he identifies with the God of the exodus, God of freedom, of promise, of grace, God of unmediated presence.

Short discussion of the seven "I am" statements from the gospel according to John's community. I added in that John's "as Moses lifted up the serpent on the pole, so shall the human one be lifted up" strongly implies an 8th "I am the snake."

Many many class observations how Jesus has been praying; Jesus often retreats and goes off by himself to commune and communicate with his Heavenly Father.

Earlier in Matthew 8:23-27 we have Jesus in the same boat as the disciples taming the waters and stilling the storm: "who is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!" That story and today's both demonstrate Jesus as Lord of creation, Jesus acting in ways God usually acts.

A few weeks ago for Pentecost 7 we heard Romans 8:19 "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God" that explains creation longs for (remember how wait, expect, hope are the same word in Spanish?) humans who reflect and embody their divine image by caring for the natural world the same way God does. So God calls us to cherish and steward creation as Jesus does, even in ways the start to reverse climate change and prevent more species extinction humans have caused. God calls all of us to be Emmanuel, God-with-us, God's work, our hands on earth, as the denomination's tagline on our chrome orange t-shirts announces.

Moving beyond a simple yet essential keep your eyes on Jesus, we discussed the church as ship with all of us in the boat together traveling from one place to another. We, us, our, ours are the baptismal pronouns.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Pentecost 8A

Romans 8:26-39

26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered." 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Psalm 119:129-136

Refrain: When your word is opened, it gives light and understanding

129Your decrees are wonderful; Therefore I obey them with all my heart.
130When your word is opened it gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.

131I open my mouth and pant // Because I long for your commandments.
132Turn to me and be gracious to me, As you always do to those who love your name.

133Order my footsteps in your word; Let no iniquity have dominion over me.
134Redeem me from those who oppress me, And I will keep your commandments.

135Let your face shine upon your servant // And teach me your statutes.
136My eyes shed streams of tears // Because people do not keep your teaching.
We began by praying the responsive psalm with refrain together. It wonderfully rejoices in God's decrees, commandments, torah, grace, promises, redemption. I mentioned God's Word can refer to the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, to the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, or to the proclaimed word of the preacher.

Reviewing from last week

Romans is the seventh and the latest of Paul's undisputed epistles. "Undisputed" means they definitely carry marks and evidence of his authorship (grammar, sentence structure, syntax, vocabulary), although most likely all of these letters garnered edits and additions as they circulated among various churches round-robin style. We sometimes refer to Romans as Paul's systematic theology. Systematics is the philosophical-style theology that presents ideas about God with definitions, outlines, logic, and structure. By standards of people like Augustine and Barth, Romans isn't all that systematic, but it still gives us Paul's mature, well-developed theology.

Today in the Church's Year of Grace

Last week's section of Romans 8 was about the interdependence of humans and the rest of creation; today we hear about the constant presence of the Trinity in our lives, especially in our prayer lives—especially the presence of the Holy Spirit. Again this week, we need to listen and hear carefully because of the very famous and well-known words in this passage. From last week I reiterated the Apostle Paul's distinction between flesh and body: "flesh" tends to refer to sensory excesses; body simply is the housing we live in that's made out of stuff of the earth.

I started out telling about checking into the hostel in L├╝beck, Germany quite a while ago. The only other person in the bunk room and I got to talking; for some reason she told me what incredible confidence and freedom she has because her parents chose her in adoption. We live with that same confidence and freedom because God chooses us, elects us, adopts us in Jesus Christ.

Same word for destined, appointed in Romans 1 and Romans 8

Romans 1:4 God appointed [destined] Jesus son of God at his resurrection (careful note: this is not the heresy of adoptionism).

Romans 8:29 God appointed [pre-appointed, pre-destined]. Jesus as the firstborn of many siblings. In our baptism into Jesus' death and resurrection, we become Jesus' sisters and brothers, offspring of God — logical continuation from last Sunday.

Romans 8:29 Conformed to Jesus' image. Back to the beginning: humans created in God's image; the first Adam in the Garden of Eden; Jesus as the second (new) Adam in the image and likeness of God; us as the body, the presence of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ on earth. In the power of the HS of Pentecost, God recreates humanity.

Discussion of ways our baptism into Jesus' death and resurrection, into the way of the cross, means looking first to our neighbors' needs before our own preferences. Backtracking to Jeremiah and Deuteronomy last fall with "neighborology."

Monday, July 24, 2017

Pentecost 7A

Romans 8:12-25

12So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

18I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

For the past few months we've studied and discussed Jesus' instructions, promises, and cautions to his followers from John's gospel and from Matthew's gospel As we continue in the Time of the Holy Spirit, Season of the Church in the Church's Year of Grace, today we take an excursion into the book of Romans. The apostle Paul's letter to the church at Rome also details and explains some of the characteristics and behaviors that accompany our identity in Jesus Christ.

Romans is the seventh and the latest of Paul's undisputed epistles. "Undisputed" means they definitely carry marks and evidence of his authorship, although most likely all of these letters garnered edits and additions as they circulated among various churches round-robin style. We sometimes refer to Romans as Paul's systematic theology. Systematics is the philosophical-style theology that presents ideas about God with definitions, outlines, logic, and structure. By standards of people like Augustine and Barth, Romans isn't all that systematic, but it still gives us Paul's mature, well-developed theology.

Today's very famous passage from Romans is about the interwoven interdependence and interconnectedness of human creatures (that's us!) and the rest of God's created order that we sometimes refer to as the natural creation. We've heard these words so often it may be difficult to read and hear them with fresh eyes and new ears! What happens with us affects all creation; what happens in the rest of creations affects humanity.

Paul distinguishes between flesh (sarx) and body (soma). For Paul, "flesh" is bodily tendencies and predilections carried out to an excessive degree: too much food, sex, drink—sometimes too much to a detrimental degree, as in addictions and other compulsive behaviors. Working out too often and too extensively! Insisting on soaking up too much sun?!

In Romans 8:12-25 Saul/Paul of Tarsus insists all creation waits for redemption because true children of God, humans who authentically mirror and embody the Divine Image in which God has created them, care for the earth and all of nature differently from many others, in a manner that reflects their Divine Nature. In the witness of scripture all creation is mutually covenanted and covenanted with heaven; all creation carries within itself breath of the Divine and breathes the Spirit of Life.

In Spanish the same word, espero (esperare, etc.) means hope, expect, and wait. I always find that helpful whenever I read wait, hope, or expect in any scripture text.

Despite current interest in ecological theology emphasizing the redemption and integrity of all creation – not solely human creatures – a lot of teaching and preaching in the Church still focuses on humanity, which in some ways may not be all that "off," given that so much of the rest of creation is in need of restoration, revitalization and resurrection from death primarily because of human sin and failure to steward creation—which naturally results in failure to take proper care of human needs.

We had a long and helpful discussion of ways everyone can be better stewards of create and help reverse many of the negative effects other human activity has caused. I mentioned that the freedom of humans and of the natural creation Paul references always is bounded freedom with limits. "God marked a line and told the sea…"

Christianity's central proclamation is God's definitive self-revelation in Jesus of Nazareth, in a body formed from the "stuff" of the earth. Jesus the Christ, the one whose body his followers would become... now the Church as the body of the crucified and risen Christ is God's Presence on earth. The Holy Spirit fills and indwells our bodies formed from stuff of the earth, as the God of heaven and earth still chooses to make shekinah, a dwelling on earth, to live right here in the city, right there on the beach, everywhere all over the place.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Pentecost 6A

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach.

3And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!"

18"Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."

We get several famous scripture selections today!

• Isaiah 55:10-13 – with God's assurance the Word will bear fruit, will do God's thing on earth. Hebrew here is dabar that denotes both speech and action—walking the talk. This scripture promises God will send us out with joy, lead us with shalom; mountains and hills will sing, trees will applaud like an excited audience.

• Romans 8:1-11 – no condemnation ("down-judgment") for us who live in Christ. Freedom from sin and death!

• Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 – Parable of the Sower with Jesus' own interpretation. Fruitful, faith seeds grow into whatever the source of the seed promises. Greek for grain" in 13:8 is fruit.

• Our responsive Psalm 65:[1-8], 9-13 – offers universalism that includes rivers full of water that help crown the year with bounty so wilderness pastures overflow, meadows become beautifully arrayed, valleyed decked out with grain shout for joy and sing. All this glory in creation happens because God "visits the earth." Those images in the psalm and in the reading from Second Isaiah remind us that in the Psalms 96, 98 and 148 appointed for Christmas when God visits the earth in the baby Jesus of Nazareth, mountains and hills, valleys, streams and rivers also sing for joy, clap their hands....

So far in the church's year of grace in chapters 10 through 12 of Matthew's gospel we've had Jesus' instructions and commissioning for mission, for the church sent out into the world (that's us, because all of us are sent people or apostles), along with his warnings of what may happen. In Matthew 8 and 9 we experienced Jesus moving from proclaimed word into the enacted deeds that help explain his words. Before that, chapters 5 through 7 covered the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 1 through 4 tell us who Jesus is with his genealogy, birth, and very early life.

Matthew 13 includes the biblical number of 7 parables, starting out with a parable about seed, sower, and earth (ground, land). Everything we have originates in the earth. In scripture the earth of Genesis becomes the land of Leviticus and Deuteronomy that God graces us with as gift and charges us to steward and care for.

Para is beside, alongside, in a similar sense to a medical, legal, or other para-professional, who works with and supports a professional in that field (though today's paraprofessional are highly-trained and professional in their own right). Paraclete as one of the words for the Holy spirit refers to clesis or "called" by our side. Etc.

At the beginning of the passage Jesus leaves the house, sits by the sea (Lake of Galilee, almost definitely), and then goes out into a boat because so many people had gathered around him. Charlene mentioned that sound carries well over water, so everyone could hear people better and it was a way of the crowds being able to notice and focus on him. This was an agricultural society that well would have grasped concept of seed – sower – different types of ground. But we can parallel this parable into other settings, as well.

Everyone agreed we didn't need Jesus' explanation of the different types of soil; everyone agreed each of us is every one one of these soil or ground conditions at various times, often during the same day.

Sara and I had attended Reformation Roadtrip 6 the day before; it emphasized Luther as an interpreter of scripture, with many cautions about the hazards and difficulties of translating any document of any era from one spoken or written language into another. The translator always is somewhere between the original text and their translation or paraphrase. I mentioned our need to contextualize our ministries of speaking and service into culturally congruent words and actions very much included spoken and written words.

Although I'd planned to discuss stewardship of finances, property, and other resources, the other discussions and observations took enough time and become so detailed and interesting I didn't even mention ways we can be too fear-filled, too cautious, focusing on observable limitations rather than trusting God's limitless giving. Like the different types of seed-sowers, that also tends to be all of us at one time or another.