Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Lent 2C

Philippians 4:1-13

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.

10I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. 11Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 14In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.

The church's year of grace has moved into the season of Lent that counts the biblical number of forty days minus Sundays: Ash Wednesday through Wednesday in Holy Week. Maundy/Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Eve/Day form a single liturgy of the three days or Triduum.

A couple weeks ago on Transfiguration Pastor Peg explained the recent Lenten emphasis on living grounded in our baptism into Christ, in an attitude of joy, works and words of mercy toward our neighbors (and ourselves, as well). Of course we need to acknowledge our wrong doings, we sometimes need to turn our direction around in prayers and acts of repentance, but the idea is to get away from feeling hopeless and no good, receive the gift of forgiveness and new life, affirm and live out our baptismal identity.

Today we'll check out a passage from the apostle Paul's letter to the church at Philippi. Philippians is known as the epistle of joy and connects extremely well with the current emphasis for Lent. In this short 4-chapter long letter, the "joy" or its cognates occurs at least 16 times.

The words for grace and joy in Greek come from the same root, so you could say to have joy means to recognize and embody grace.

χάρις = grace

χαράς = joy

Paul wrote this epistle to the church at Philippi where we was founding pastor and probably a kind of mission developer. As a Roman colony, the citizens and congregants had dual citizenship similar to ours: baptized citizens of heaven on earth, denizens of imperial Rome, the occupying power. Like us, although they needed to defer to Rome's wordily power to some degree in order to survive, they ultimately needed to order their lives and days around their Christian identities. Philippians is a captivity or imprisonment letter Paul probably wrote from some type of incarceration—possibly house arrest or from a dungeon in Rome around 61 or thereabouts. Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, also wrote well-known letters from prison. Do you know anyone who has written meaningful or memorable letters from prison or jail? Maybe poetry or a novel?

In this letter Paul rejoices despite extremely difficult and discouraging circumstances. In Acts 16:25 we read about Paul and Silas praying in prison; that may have been the same one.

We had a longish discussion of 4:1, "I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord." This section is in the contemporaneous literary form of paranaesis that's encouragement or exhortation to keep on keepin' as you have been and almost never is about reproach or reprimand. Because the lectionary where we get our weekly scripture readings appoints this text for several occasions, I found about a dozen commentaries and current consensus is Paul's ministry coworkers and companions Euodia and Syntyche were doing just fine and needed to keep going as they had been, as 4:9 suggests. On an important side note, here and elsewhere in Paul's seven undisputed (definitely written by him and not by someone else who used his name, which was a commonplace compliment back then) epistles we see quite a lot of evidence of women leaders in the early church.

Philippians 4:8 brings us one of Paul's famous lists: true; honorable; just; pure; pleasing; commendable; excellence; worthy of praise… God bestows those wonderful characteristics on us in our baptism; we bestow them on others with our presence and activity in their lives. What a way to start and continue in this season of Lent as we journey toward Easter.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Lent 1C

Luke 4:1-13

1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.

3The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread." 4Jesus answered him, "It is written, "One does not live by bread alone.'"

5Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And the devil said to him, "To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours." 8Jesus answered him, "It is written, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'"

9Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10for it is written, "He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,' 11and "On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'" 12Jesus answered him, "It is said, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

13When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.


The Church's year of grace has moved into the 40-day long season of Lent. "Lent" is an old word for springtime that refers to lengthening days and more daylight. The music tempo lento is a lengthening, slowing-down pace. Lent is one of the church's oldest observances that probably began not long after Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension, although throughout the centuries lent has had different lengths ranging from a few days to our current practice of forty days – Ash Wednesday through Wednesday in Holy Week – minus Sundays. Sundays are In Lent but not of Lent, since every Sunday is a festival of resurrection.

Like 7, 40 is a famous biblical number. Moses spent 40 days of Mount Sinai; Elijah spent 40 days on Mount Horeb. (Probaby two different names for the same mountain.) Israel trekked through the exodus desert for 40 years. Jesus spent 40 days of being tempted or tested in the wilderness.

Lenten practices and observances emphasize repentance – thus colors of purple and lavender – and baptism. Just as with baptism, the turning around, repentance aspect of Lent is about living bathed in grace. Traditionally Lent has been a time of preparation for baptism that historically happened during the Easter Vigil; it's also a time for those of us already baptized to remember how in grace God claims us, names us Christian, calls us to witness and service, and in the power of the Spirit sends us into the world to be the gospel, to live as good news to everyone everywhere we venture.

Recently in Luke's Gospel

2:21-22 Jesus' baptism
3:23-38 Jesus' genealogy, ending with son of Adam, son of God
4:1-13 Jesus, full of the HS – continuing with the rest of today's gospel reading
4:14-21 Jesus, filled with the power of the HS – his first formal act of public ministry in the synagogue when he reads from Isaiah and announces release to the captives, the year of Jubilee fulfilled at this time in this place. This was our gospel reading on Epiphany 3 this year.

Lent 1

Every lectionary year (A, B, and C) the first Sunday in Lent features Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. It's striking how we move from Jesus' baptism in the wilderness alongside the Jordan River to the Holy Spirit Jesus receives in his baptism catapulting him out into a deeper, denser wilderness.

This is Revised Common Lectionary year C, also known as Luke's year. Luke emphasizes neighborology, the word about the neighbor. This year we hear a lot from Jeremiah, a lot from Deuteronomy; both books emphasize living together in covenantal community. Deuteronomy records the Ten Commandments that supremely instruct us how to live into the fullness of the reign of shalom where no one has too much or too little, everyone has as much as they need.

Synoptic gospels Mark, Matthew, and Luke all include an account of Jesus' testing by the devil, Satan, traditionally the prosecuting attorney in Judaism. Mark provides no details; Matthew and Luke reverse the order of the second and third temptation or test. Luke places this passage about Jesus, son of God immediately after his version of Jesus' genealogy that ends with "Adam, son of God."

• Luke 4:3 Turn these stones into bread?

But Jesus himself is the bread of life, he is far more than basic survival food, Jesus is The Stuff of ultimate revival, a.k.a. Living Bread, nutritious grain that won't rot or mold or decay!

• Luke 4:6-7 Give Jesus authority over all the kingdoms of the world?

Jesus is Lord over and against the insufficiency of temple sacrifice, the dehumanization and violence of Roman imperial rule. In Christ Jesus all the world possesses the cross of Calvary, power of life over the death-dealing, life-negating pretenses of too many ecclesiastical and earthly governments.

• Luke 4:9 Throw yourself down from the temple spire?

But Jesus himself is the temple; Jesus is more than the temple. In fact, each of us is a temple of the Holy Spirit, so no further need for a brick and mortar structure because we have and we are living temples.

In today's passage, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy, with words that point to the neighbor, the other, and not to himself. Jesus had spent a lifetime attending synagogue and being instructed in Torah, so he carried the substance and meaning of scripture in his heart. We've mentioned Mary praying the Magnificat recorded in Luke 1:46-55 – "My soul magnifies the Lord, and spirit rejoices in God my savior" – that's roughly based on Hannah's song in the OT. Like Jesus, she'd been raised an observant Jew and that meant learning and knowing scripture.

How about us? What about us? What scriptures, prayers, hymns, do we rely on when the going gets rough and tough? When we're confused or uncertain about our next move? What scriptures do we recall when life is glorious and we want to thank and acknowledge God?

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Transfiguration C

Luke 9:28-36

28Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

32Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah"―not knowing what he said.

34While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"

36When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

Today the church's year of grace concludes the Epiphany segment of green and growing Ordinary Time. This is the Western Protestant Church's Transfiguration Sunday, or (this year, since it's calendared according to the date of Easter Sunday) the eighth Sunday after Epiphany. The Roman Catholic branch of the church celebrate Transfiguration on the Second Sunday in Lent; Eastern Orthodox and some Anglican churches on August 6th. Transfiguration is an octave of eight days in the East—theologically and liturgically, it's that important! Actually… some churches celebrate it twice.

trans figure = change shape
transfiguration= change of shape
transformed, transcended

Just as at Jesus' Baptism, at Transfiguration we experience a Trinitarian theophany: manifestation, showing forth, revealing of all three persons of the trinity. The "Theo" prefix is God; remember other words that include "phan"? Epiphany, Tiffany, Fantasy… other?

Today we're looking at Jesus' transfiguration. A quote from Nelson Mandela: "We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us."

So far in Luke 9:

• Jesus calls the 12 together and gives them authority to heal and cast out demons.
• Sends them out to proclaim the gospel and heal; charges them to find and stay at houses of peace/shalom, with the famous exhortation to shake the dust of that place off their feet it it doesn't prove to be one of peace.
• Charged the 12 to feed the crowd—"you give them something to eat." 5 loaves, 2 fish.
• Peter confesses Jesus as Messiah, the Christ of God
• Jesus' passion predication—suffer, die, be buried, raised.
• Jesus calls us to bear his cross, to lose our lives in order to save our lives.

In scripture mountains are places of special revelation. Both Moses [Exodus 20:1-17] and Elijah [1 Kings 19:12] received revelation on mountains. With Jesus' crucifixion, Mount Calvary is the ultimate mountaintop revelation.

In Hebrew cosmology, the cloud of the Shekinah was a frequent feminine image that referred to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity.

v.28: "About eight days" could refer to approximately one week, or it could refer to the 8th day of the New Creation. 40 days in scripture is about one month; 40 years is a month of years. In their parallel passages, Mark and Matthew tell us 6 days, which also is about one week.

v.29: As often happens in Luke's gospel, Jesus was praying when this revelation happened. Compare Jesus' baptism.

They'd just been celebrating the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles or Tents when people remembered and celebrated God's protection during their wilderness wanderings (Leviticus 23:39-43), therefore giving mountaintop guys sons of Zebedee Peter, James, and John the idea of huts or little booths.

Moses and Elijah visit. Why Moses and Elijah? What do we already know about them? Moses – Sinai Covenant/Ten Commandments, "Law"; Exodus. Elijah – Prophets.

v.31: in Greek, Jesus' exodus, departure.

They talked about Jesus' departure: "Exodus" in the Greek. Although all three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke include the transfiguration, Jesus speaks of his exodus only in Luke. Luke's gospel particularly emphasizes a new freedom, new liberation.

Listen to Jesus! not "look at him," despite all the resplendent shiny heavenly glory and bling that surrounds him.

Listen to jesus, not to Moses or to Elijah, who didn't quite get everything right all the time.

Listen to Jesus and not to any other (cultural, economic, consumer, ecclesiastical) voices evokes the Barmen Declaration [1934] from the Confessing Church in Germany in the wake of the idolatry of nazi national socialism

Barmen Declaration 8:11: "Jesus Christ, as he is attested to us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God whom we have to hear, and whom we have to trust and obey in life and in death."

Today we looked at Jesus' transfiguration. A quote from Nelson Mandela: "We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us."