Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Pentecost 2C

Luke 8:26-39

26Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs.

28When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me"— 29for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30Jesus then asked him, "What is your name?" He said, "Legion"; for many demons had entered him. 31They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

32Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed.

37Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39"Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

Welcome to an almost 6-month long stretch of the green, growing, thriving, changing and versatile season of Ordinary Time! As we count Sundays after the Day of Pentecost, we focus on our every moment, every day spectacularly alive in the power and reign of the Spirit of Life. This is Luke's year in the Revised Common Lectionary that provides our scriptures for each week. Every Sunday through Reign of Christ / Christ the King our gospel account will be from Luke.

Luke's perspective includes:

• world history and Jewish history
• Jesus' genealogy that ends with "Adam, son of God."
• presence and activity of the Holy Spirit – the HS has been prominent throughout the Bible's witness, but Luke-Acts brings a fulfillment of God's reign in the Spirit
• prayer
• women
• marginalized people of every type from every perspective—the underclass.
• table fellowship
• neighborology – the word about the neighbor that emphasize people nearby, the other, everyone living together faithfully in covenantal community.

Today's narrative that takes place in a heavily gentile area shows us one of many fulfillments of Jesus' announcement of his mission in Luke's version of Jesus' IPO, his first act of public ministry we read about on Epiphany 3C:

Luke 4:18 "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."

Luke is one of the three synoptic gospels that view Jesus' life and ministry in a similar manner (syn=together / optic=related to eye or vision; all three synoptics contain a version of this story.

• Mark 5:1-20

• Matthew 8:28-34 with two demons

This narrative points beyond itself to the reversal of the cross as it shows an example of God's subversive, upside-down reign that inverts almost everything related to conventional human expectations.

We can interpret the guy filled with demons as a scapegoat, the designated outcast who carries around all of everyone else's in the community's bad stuff that includes sins, pathology, every bit of their undesirable less than good of every kind. The contagious crowd, herd, mob, or tribe mentality is prominent here, as well. Luke 8:35c – the crowd was afraid! Here was the end of their scapegoat; with the finality of the pigs filled with all those (2,000?) demons gone over the cliff and drowned they no longer had someone to dump their sin, evil, and undesirables on. Someone called this "an event without a future." Therefore? Luke 8:37 – they asked Jesus to leave.

Luke 4:29b Shortly after Jesus' announcement of his mission of freeing, liberating, from everything that binds or enslaves, his proclamation of the here and now of the reign of God, the crowds wanted to push Jesus over a cliff. That was a conventional form of execution in that culture.

We had a long discussion of ways people can be bound or held in many types of slaveries and addictions beyond their control, including the fact human chattel slavery still exists worldwide. Juneteenth every year on June 19th commemorates the day the reality of emancipation of slavery in the USA reached the state of Texas.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Trinity Sunday C

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

1Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?
2On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand;
3beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
4"To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live."

22"The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.
23Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.
25Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth—
26when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world's first bits of soil.
27When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep,
29when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,
31rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race."

Trinity Sunday...

...celebrates a doctrine or teaching, rather than an event. Scripture strongly implies God as triune or three-in-one / one-in-three, but scripture never uses the word "trinity." The Trinity is a mystery! Our human brains insist on trying to describe it, with most attempts ending up with the heresy of modalism (ha ha – those would include ice, water, vapor; son, friend, brother...)

In our readings this year we've had at least two explicit theophanies or revelations of the Trinity: the Baptism of Jesus and the Transfiguration. In the year 325 the Council of Nicaea articulated the doctrine of the Trinity and wrote the Nicene Creed some churches recite during worship as a testimony of faith. Discussion: LCM hasn't featured the Nicene /Constantinopolitan Creed since I've been attending, but Barbara said they sometimes have in the distant past. Pastor Peg said we may recite in the future, and I suggested she could do a brief intro beforehand.

Trinity Sunday is the Octave of Pentecost. The church long has celebrated important events in octaves of eight days (similar to an octave of eight notes in music). Rather than attempting an analogy that never ever approaches the essence of the godhead, early church fathers and mothers talked about the perichoresis of the Trinity. "Peri" refers to in the vicinity of, around, nearby as in perimeter, peripatetic, peripheral, pericope, perigee, peristalsis... "Choresis" has the same root as choreography, so perichoresis is dancing around. Father, Son, Holy Spirit interact with each other, interpenetrate, mutually indwell in union, harmony, agreement. consonance, integrity shalom, etc. They always travel together.

Sadly, in class I omitted this important comment: the Trinity models our interactive and cooperative lifestyles and ministries. The Church [us!] as the Image of the Trinity.

We baptize using water and a Trinitarian formula, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19 is the only occurrence of the Father, Son, HS baptismal formula in the Bible, but that almost definitely was one of many later additions to the text. We've noted Matthew's gospel most likely is the most heavily redacted or edited of the four canonical gospels. The early church probably baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus, Jesus the Savior, or used similar words.

Old Testament / Hebrew Bible Overview

Preparing for our move into the green and growing season of Ordinary Time next week, a synopsis of the three main sections:

1. Torah or Pentateuch

the first five books, sometimes called Books of Moses, not because Moses could have written them, but because parts of them focus on Moses as liberator of God's people.

2. Prophets

include Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings—the former prophets; and the writing prophets or latter prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel plus the Book of the Twelve or the Minor Prophets that are minor in length but not minor in content.

1, 2. Pentateuch and Prophets both carry a sense of an authoritative, revelatory Word of the Lord; Pentateuch and Prophets emphasize God's covenanting with humanity and with all creation. Torah and Prophets reveal an active, intervening God;

3. Writings

a miscellaneous collection that includes Psalms, Proverbs, Chronicles, Job, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Song of Solomon... The writings are not a coherent body of literature; the official canon even varied some over the years. Among other angles, they bring us human words to God and human speech about God. They have a sense of discerning God's work and God's presence in the world from observing creation and social structures, a sense of what we learn from living daily life. Some books report narrative events (Chronicles, Nehemiah, Ezra, Esther for example) or address God in temple or another worship context (Psalms).


The book of Proverbs belongs to Israel's religious literature, but rather than being about covenant or temple, it mainly contains practical advice for living with integrity or wholeness in community. Its 31 chapters contain essays, metaphors, similes, memes/ cultural pieces of different types that reveal structure, order, continuity of creation and of all life.

Most likely Proverbs came from many different authors over a span of 400 years. In a similar way to Moses' connection with liberation, Israel correlated Solomon with wisdom, and some of the content of Proverbs probably is from the united kingdom monarchy of Saul, David, and Solomon. Wisdom in Proverbs and in the other scriptural wisdom books of Job and Ecclesiastes isn't so much head knowledge as it is heart- and foot knowledge—the sense of how life comes together people often gain after they've journeyed for a while. Wisdom literature discerns and discovers God in creation, in the order and structures of human life and activity, and in ongoing human experiences

Today's First Reading

In the first part of today's divided first reading, Proverbs 8:1-4, Wisdom personified stands in a very public place; late Pastor Eugene Peterson's The Message translation says:

"She's taken her stand at First and Main, at the busiest intersection. Right in the city square where the traffic is thickest, she shouts, 'You – I'm talking to all of you, everyone out here on the streets!'"

The attribute of wisdom is for everyone, what a banking commercial a few years back called the "regular people." Wisdom is not an obscure, esoteric trait for super-smart scholars in the library or explorers scaling the highest mountain peaks.

The second section, Proverbs 8: 22-31 is a creation account, somewhat parallel to the creation stories of Genesis 1 and Psalm 104.

Wisdom the "master worker" was like a cooperating craftsperson or artisan alongside God at creation. Wisdom was essential for creation to happen. God wove wisdom into the fabric of reality and made Wisdom – not Chance – at the heart of all that is. This passage ends with Wisdom again personified, "then I [Wisdom] was beside God, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in God's inhabited world and delighting in humanity." Wisdom delights in God’s presence and in God's creation.

Pastor Eugene in The Message translates verses 20b-31:

"Day after day I was there, with my joyful applause, always enjoying his company, Delighted with the world of things and creatures, happily celebrating the human family"

Wisdom sets all of this into motion as a graceful, endless, "dancing around" perichoresis of the Triune God's joy at creation.

From the epistles we know Jesus Christ as the Wisdom of God—I Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 2:2,3

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Day of Pentecost C 2019

Acts 2:1-8 (9-21)

1When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?
Easter is 50 Days; today, the Day of Pentecost is the 50th day of Easter.

Penta = 50. Similar words includes pentagram, pentagon, pentacle, pentatonic.

The church's year of grace features a trio of major festivals that relate to each Person of the Trinity/Godhead:

• Christmas – Nativity –> Creation

• Resurrection – Easter –> Redemption

• Pentecost – Whitsunday –> Sanctification / Theosis / Holiness

Next week we'll celebrate all three with the Feast of the Holy Trinity / "tri-unity"; after that we'll segue into the long, winding, growing, greening season of Ordinary Time—Season of the Spirit, Time of the Church. During those approximately six months, we'll count Sundays after Pentecost.

Last week we discussed Jesus' Ascension and the conversation (again!) beforehand. His earthly disciples asked Jesus if at this time he would "restore the kingdom to Israel," and Jesus told them to wait for his ascending followed by the descending of the HS and then they would be his witnesses. In other words, they would help "restore the kingdom," the reign, the sovereignty, God's shalom of all creation.

Pneumatology is the technical word for the branch of theology that's about the person, presence, and activity of the HS.

In his book of the Acts of the Apostles Luke brings us the only scriptural account of the Day of Pentecost. The HS is prominent throughout Luke's gospel—and in Acts, of course. The apostle Paul and the gospel of John also tell us a lot about the HS.

Luke 4:18-19 begins Jesus' public ministry with the HS; Doctor Luke's book of Acts begins our public ministry with the HS.

Today's account of the day of Pentecost from Luke Volume 2 or the Acts of the Apostles, starts with 120 of Jesus' followers gathered together. Strong tradition says they were in the same upper room as during the last supper, but the actual physical location remains unknown. Everyone from everywhere (Steve W provided an excellent list of the locations of everywhere) was in Jerusalem for the Jewish Pentecost that celebrated the wheat/grain harvest along with God's giving the Sinai Covenant or Ten Commandments via Moses. Interesting juxtaposition, because when people faithfully steward all creation by following the commandments, the ground often yields an abundant harvest. Just as the day of Pentecost is one of the three most major Christian festivals, the Jewish Pentecost was one of the three mandated festivals.

Observing Pride Day at the same time as Pentecost is very appropriate! God has no outsiders; as Jesus demonstrated, in God's world everyone is an insider. As Jesus' followers called, empowered, and sent out (an apostle is a sent person, using the same word as scripture uses for God's sending of the HS) people, we need to include everyone.

Acts 2:6 everyone heard in their own language. We discussed the importance of learning other spoken languages, and maybe especially cultural languages such as body language/gestures, table manners, appreciating social class differences. Pastor Peg mentioned emojis have become an unspoken language. Charles explained how positive gestures in some cultures are insults in others. As we reach out in wider circles, as more people from further away venture into our building and often into our community, becoming part of "we and us," understanding and being responsive to spoken and cultural languages is an extremely important aspect of welcoming everyone so they actually feel welcome.

Jesus' disciples asked him, "Will you at this time restore the kingdom?" Jesus responded, "The question is wrong! Wait here in Jerusalem, and you shall be my witnesses." The HS makes witness possible. The converse? Without the HS there is no witness.

The indwelling HS we receive in baptism enables us to live and serve as God's hands, feet, voice, etc. Remember the Golden Calf Event in Exodus 32? God said, "Moses, your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt." Moses replied, "God, your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt." Which is it? Moses' people or God's people? It's both/and.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Ascension - Easter 7C

Ephesians 1:15-23

15I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Easter is 50 days, a week of week! Today is day 43, and we'll celebrate both Easter 7 and Ascension Day that always happens on the 40th day of Easter. A week from today we'll celebrate the Day of Pentecost and remember the descent (opposite of ascent) of the Holy Spirit of life to enliven and revitalize all creation. We receive the HS in our baptism.

Although we sometimes refer to an object like a balloon or a plane ascending, or we may mention a person has ascended to a higher station in life (like a better job or fancier house), "ascension" isn't a very common word. In Jesus' context, it refers to his reign, rule, sovereignty, power, lordship, kingship, authority—"dominion" as in our reading. His stewardship of all creation, all life everywhere. Unlike with human governments and organizations, Jesus' authority has no checks and balances. It is supreme. It is absolute.

This morning we'll study a passage from the letter or epistle to the church at Ephesus. Today's not a time to discuss the social and cultural situation there except to mention Ephesus was the location of the Temple of the goddess Diana with almost the entire city involved in her cult. Though it's also not a time to dwell on it, Ephesians is not one of the seven undisputed or authentic letters written by the apostle Paul. The grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure are different from his. The theology has a slightly different emphasis, though many scholars point out it may represent the direction Paul would have taken later on in his ministry. Back in those days, using someone else's name on your writing wasn't the legal and moral offense it is today; it complimented the person whose name you used, and (as Pastor Peg pointed out), it also could give the writing wider readership than a piece by someone less well-known would get.

This short snippet from Ephesians provide three poignant (body part!) images of Jesus' ascendancy, lordship, leadership, rule:

• 1:20 seated at God's right hand
• 1:22a all things under his feet
• 1:22b made him the head over all things for the church...

...1:23 which is Christ's body! The past couple weeks we've mentioned when the disciples asked the risen Jesus if at this time he would "restore the kingdom to Israel," he replied, "the question is wrong," and tells them to wait in the city and they will receive power (the dynamite word) and then be his witnesses everywhere. In other words, Jesus' disciples (that's us!) would be the ones to restore the reign of heaven on earth, the people who in the power of the pentecostal Spirit of Resurrection would be the body of Christ, and it would be God's works – our hands.

Before we closed I mentioned the famous account of reformers Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli in their encounter at Marburg. Arguing the eucharistic/real presence concern, Zwingli claimed the real or authentic presence (Geneva Reformer John Calvin preferred true presence) of the risen Christ in the Lord's Supper wasn't possible, since Jesus Christ ascended sits (is incumbent, rules from) at the right hand of God the Father.

Though along with Zwingli he acknowledged Christ's ascension to God the Father's Right Hand, in response to Zwingli Luther pointed out the Right Hand of God – God's sovereignty and dominion – is everywhere and throughout, under and over all creation, thus the Right Hand of God to where Jesus Christ ascended and from where he now reigns is everywhere: in Zurich, in London, at Marburg, in Los Angeles, in Tokyo—absolutely all places at all times.

The fourth gospel, the gospel accord to John, has Jesus making a round-trip from heaven to earth, back to heaven.

Wear red next Sunday and let Pastor Peg or the church office know if you can read Psalm 104:30 in a language other than English.