Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Pentecost 7C

Luke 11:1-13

1Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." 2He said to them, "When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3Give us each day our daily bread.
4And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial."
5And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, "Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.' 7And he answers from within, "Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.' 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

9"So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
The church's year of grace is two-third's spent, with only four more months in Luke's lectionary year. Major thanks to Barbara for facilitating the past three weeks; given this is summer, attendance likely was more random than usual, but I trust everyone gave her a lot of holy trouble.

Today we'll hear Luke's version of the famous prayer that's Jesus' response when his disciples ask him to teach them to pray, just as all rabbis and religious leaders did. Let's put it in context by backtracking with a overview of the gospel readings for the past five Sundays. This sequence of readings shows the nature of Jesus' authority.

June 23 – Pentecost 2 :: Luke 8:26-39

"Gerasene Demoniac," about the guy possessed by a legion of demons or unclean spirits and who hung out naked amongst tombs. Jesus's liberating word drove the demons into a herd of swine that then plunged over a cliff and drowned. This has been called a story without a sequel, as it demonstrates Jesus' ultimate power and authority over bondage, slavery, evil of all kinds.

June 30 – Pentecost 3 :: Luke 9:31-62

Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem—no looking back. His disciples claim they will follow Jesus wherever he goes!—to the cross?! Jesus replies the cost of discipleship includes having no regular place of residence, no predictable place to sleep. The price of the itinerating all of us (not only United Methodists and Wesleyans) do as we go where God sends us. And, of course, following Jesus wherever he goes includes the cross. And the empty grave.

July 7 – Pentecost 4 :: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Jesus gives instructions for going out into the world as itinerant missionaries (that's what we all are, all the time). Paralleling Moses and the 70 elders, Luke's Jesus picks up on the number 70 and sends them out in pairs. Their very first thing is to offer Shalom, the fullness of God's loving, merciful, reign and presence to everyone they meet. Then they proclaim the gospel. If the people we go to don't receive us? Shake the dust off your feet! One of the outcomes of prayer is learning to discern when to quit trying to engage an individual, a family, or a group; figuring out when to move on to the next place.

July 14 – Pentecost 5 :: Luke 10:23-37

How to have eternal life? How to have heaven on earth? Keep the commandments! Jesus' shorthand "Great Commandment" version: love God, neighbor, and self. Then the probing question: And who is my neighbor? And then? Activist Jesus narrates the Good Samaritan parable that's unique to Luke. We've talked about Luke's emphasis on the neighbor and called it neighborology, the word/logos about the neighbor. The Good Samaritan sums up the emphasis on the neighbor we find in Deuteronomy that's superbly about actively living out our covenants with God and with one another; Jeremiah also emphasizes the neighbor. Jesus instructs (commands!) his listeners to "go and do likewise" as the Samaritan man has in caring for the guy who's fallen by the wayside after being robbed and beaten.

July 21 – Pentecost 6 :: Luke 10:38-42

Jesus visits Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus. Martha's busy in the kitchen preparing a tasty meal for Jesus their guest; Mary hangs out with Jesus, basking in his presence and in his word. This contemplative way is a radical switch from the tale of the Good Samaritan immediately before it. So which is it? An activist "go and do likewise" or a more receptive "better part" of simply being in heaven's presence? It's both/and.

Today – Pentecost 7 :: Luke 11:1-13

Aspects of prayer include praise, thanksgiving, confession, and petition. After acknowledging God as hallowed or holy, Jesus' prayer guides us through petitions that help envision the reign of heaven will come to earth.

We had a very helpful (IMNHO) discussion of our own prayer lives. Pastor Peg pointed out she liked Jesus praying at "a certain place." A recurring time or times of day and a regular location or locations can help prayer become a habit.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Pentecost 3C

Galatians 5:1, 13-25

1For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

13For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 15If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

16Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.

22By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Ordinary Time

In the church's year of grace we've reached a long stretch of Ordinary Time that will continue for the next five months. Ordered, orderly, arranged, structured, this is the green and growing Season of the Spirit, Time of the Church. We count Sundays after the Day of Pentecost; the church lives in the power of the Spirit of Pentecost.

Galatians

The apostle Paul's letter or epistle to the Galatians is one of his seven undisputed or authentic epistles. All seven carry evidence of his grammar, syntax, sentence structure, vocabulary, and theology, though there's a clear progression from 1 Thessalonians to Romans.

The community at Galatia was the first ethnic church, not in the sense of Jewish–gentile ethnicity, but of geography and culture. But they also were ethnos as gentiles! The words Galatia, Gaulle, Gaelic, Celt, Celtic all come from the same root.

• Galatians is the Epistle of Freedom.
• Galatians is Reformation central, vitally important to Martin Luther's theology.
• Galatians demonstrates we all live under the same law of God, with the same freedom or liberty in Jesus Christ.
• This passage brings us a typical Reformation contrast and dichotomy between law and gospel we try to articulate in preaching.

Galatians famously brings us:

• Paul's only birth narrative: "In the fullness of time God sent his son, born of a woman, born under the law." Galatians 4:4
• Neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, bond nor free, for all are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28 – last week! The ground is level at the foot of the cross. But this doesn't obliterate distinctions and wonders of each person's individual gifts and contributions.
• [works of the flesh and] fruits of the Spirit: "By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Galatians 5:22-23a

Freedom, liberty throughout this passage is eleutheria in Greek. Greek doulos is slave/slavery rather than servant/servitude.

5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free ... do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 13 ... do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.

Paul and Law and Gospel

"Gospel" means Good News. For Paul, the gospeled good news is death and resurrection.

Christ has died – Christ has risen – Christ will come again

Almost every time Paul uses the word "law," he refers to circumcision, sacrificial law, ritual law, keeping kosher, ceremonial law, and not to the ten commandments, but "law" in Galatians 5:14 does refer to the Ten Commandments of the Sinai Covenant. Like Jesus, he summarizes the commandments with "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." The commandments are the working papers for our life together, as they set permissions, limits, and boundaries so we can live and serve in freedom.

Ethnic Churches – Outreach

Every mainline church body in this country began as an immigrant church—whether non-English speaking Lutheran and Reformed or very English-speaking Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists; American protestantism now has come full-circle with substantial numbers whose first language wasn't English, members who still may not know much English. We need to welcome and receive the gifts Asian and Hispanic, African and Caribbean Christian traditions bring. Besides all of those protestant churches, the Roman Catholic Church in this country originally began with ethnic immigrant local churches. Midwestern and Northeastern cities were filled with people from Poland, Germany, Ireland, and Italy. They worshiped in Latin until Vatican II, but did everything else exactly like in the old country;

Pastor Peg mentioned a Pasadena congregation that contextualized the gospel by cycling through many different languages and cultures over many decades before finally recently closing its doors.

We talked about Christians who originally settled in other parts of the country bringing everything with them to California—not only Hot Dish Casseroles and Nativity observances, but as Steve W observed, they also built church buildings with steeply pitched roofs even though snow isn't a current concern in southern California. He said, "That's what they knew."

Outreach, evangelism in the church building and in our everyday worlds: what demands do we make of newcomers? Do we insist people look like us, talk like us, act like us, etc.? Because that's what we know? Do we insist they claim our cultural (ethnic) styles and habits as their own? No one at LCM does, but we still need to be constantly aware. As the Reformers insisted, wherever you find Word and Sacrament you find the church. No Word and Sacrament? No church. No requirement for everyone to look, act, talk, think, feel the same as everyone else.