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.