Saturday, September 26, 2020

Pentecost 17A

Exodus 17:1-7

1From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2The people quarreled with Moses, and said, "Give us water to drink." Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?" 3But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?" 4So Moses cried out to the Lord, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me."

5The Lord said to Moses, "Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink." Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?"

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

Intro / Season of Creation / The Gift of Water

You may remember "40" is one of those famous biblical numbers. Scripture tells us God's people Israel took forty years after they left Egypt to reach the Jordan River and cross into Canaan. It may have been a few years more or less, but forty equals two generations, long enough for people to start forgetting and stop longing for their former lives, long enough to learn to trust God's daily provision. Today's reading is from fairly early days in Israel's wilderness trek.

Last week's notes mentioned the Season of Creation emphasis some churches follow during September through the commemoration of Saint Francis of Assisi on the first Sunday in October. Saint Francis is the weekend most churches offer a Blessing of the Animals, as we've done the past three years. Season of Creation began early in this century in the Lutheran Church of Australia by a pastor who was hyper-aware of meteorological seasons, flora, and fauna. This year's overall theme is Justice for Creation; for The Gift of Water this Sunday, the Old Testament reading is the same as for Pentecost 17 in the Revised Common Lectionary.

Water is the womb of this planet's birth and of our own beginnings. We're learning justice for all creation begins with justice for water because water is life!

Journeys in Stages / Water / Moses' Staff

17:1 The Israelites journeyed by stages…

Today's scripture comes from the extensive wilderness narratives detailing Israel's departure from Egypt, through their sojourn at Sinai where they received the gift of the Ten Words/ Ten Commandments, and on through their arrival at the edge of the Jordan River, the body of water that marked the border of the Promised Land. Today's Water from the Rock segment comes from a water-related series:

• they leave the Sea of Reeds and journey through the wilderness of Shur – Exodus 15:22…
• and arrive at Marah, where God asks Moses to sweeten the bitter waters with a piece of wood – Exodus 15:23-26
• from Marah they go to Elim, where they find twelve springs of water – Exodus 15:27
• from Elim it's onto the wilderness of Sin, where God first provides manna – Exodus 16:1-36 (only for reference; doesn't mention water)
• from the wilderness of Sin they travel to Rephidim, the setting for today's account – Exodus 17:1-7

"The Lord said to Moses, 'Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink'" Exodus 17:5-6.


• Exodus 4:1-5 – God turns Moses' shepherd's staff into a snake to convince the people God had heard their cries of pain and would redeem them.
• Exodus 7 – Moses' staff turns the Nile River into a stream of blood that smelled so terrible no one could drink from it.
• Exodus 14:16 – "Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground." Moses' shepherd's staff became an icon of deliverance.


• Exodus 17:5-6 God tells Moses to take his staff and "strike the rock" at Horeb with his staff the same way that he previously struck the Nile.

• Exodus 17:7 Moses gave a name or title to this event so the people wouldn't forget their distrust or forget God's grace: "Massah" means testing; "Meribah" is quarreling or striving.


17:1 The Israelites journeyed by stages…

The Egypt to Canaan "journeyed by stages" tradition says a total of about forty years, a time period covering two generations that's long enough to forget old loyalties, long enough to establish new ones.

It doesn't take many earth years for a human to realize life happens in stages, some shorter, some longer, some difficult, a few quite easy. The last 6+ months feels like at least forty years. We don't know when the county will move into the next stage of opening up; we've heard reports of vaccines in development but don't have any reliable estimate of trial efficacy and forthcoming public distribution and availability.

• Exodus 17:7 Moses gave a name or title to this event so the people would recall their earlier distrust and also remember God's grace-filled response. As the pandemic and its fallout continue, can we remember and testify to the world how God has met our needs again and again despite our doubt and feeling of abandonment?

• Or does that feel wrong?
• Does claiming God meets our needs sometimes or always feel like a lie?
• It feels as if lockdown may continue for another forty plus years?????
• What name would you give this experience of isolation and loneliness and uncertainty? Wilderness, winter, exile, sabbatical, something else?

In Exodus 17:5 God advises Moses, "Don't go alone; take some of the community leaders with you." Future unknowns and economic troubles aside, actual isolation is a serious factor in the difficulty everyone has been having during Stay Safe-Stay Home, Safer At Home. Even family units of parents, kids, and grandparents who can't be described as solitary and solo still are going more than a bit crazy due to lack of contact with outside people and places. In addition, at any educational level, remote learning never can be the same as in-person.

• What have we learned about the wilderness, about meteorological winters and psychological ones, all of those in between places where and when we have trouble even imagining something else is at the next stage or at the end of the journey?
• What do we know about the Saturday that comes inbetween Good Friday and Easter Sunday?

God baptizes us into community; the Holy Spirit assembles us around Word and Sacrament every Lord's Day. Those are essential aspects of our life together as the people of God in this time and place. Essential means can't be church without.

• How have you felt about Zoom or other virtual gatherings for worship and other normally in-person activities?

Water where we live: the Los Angeles River

These days feel mostly about COVID-19, but besides reminding us to trust God's presence and provision, today's scripture is about life-giving water, so let's go local. Formerly known as the world's largest storm drain, the river that named the city continues in several ongoing processes of restoration and revitalization brokered by different agencies. Justice for all creation begins with justice for water because life begins with water. Water is life!

• Have you participated in any river cleanup days?
• Spent recreational time by the LA River?
• Gone kayaking?
• Joined Friends of the LA River–FOLAR?
• Attended our judicatory Green Team's now annual World Water Day celebrations?

Is the Lord among us or not?

Is the Lord among us or not?

…is a frequent question throughout scripture, and it's one we often ask, especially when reasonable plans don't work out as soon as we'd expected—if at all. We ask if God is paying attention to our political and economic lives, as well. One goal in studying scripture is to learn about God's past presence and faithful actions throughout history, and as a result to trust God in this present.

The Lord said to Moses, "Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb." Exodus 17:5-6

This is the year of Matthew's gospel with its promise, "The virgin will be with child and they will call him 'Emmanuel'—which means 'God with us.'" Matthew 1:23 Jesus is God-among-us, God-with-us.

God not only is always and all ways among us and with us; God goes to prepare for our arrival wherever God sends us. God even is already there at those places we sense we may have reached by mistake! We sometimes refer to God going ahead and waiting for us as the previousness of God.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Pentecost 16A

Matthew 20:1-16

1"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3When he went out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4and he said to them, "You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went. 5When he went out again about noon and about three o'clock, he did the same. 6And about five o'clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, "Why are you standing here idle all day?' 7They said to him, "Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, "You also go into the vineyard.' 8When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, "Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.'

9When those hired about five o'clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, "These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' 13But he replied to one of them, "Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?' 16So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

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; God's 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.

Biblical Parables

As we've observed, Jesus' parables aren't earthly stories with a heavenly meaning. They are comparisons or analogies, originally named for "one idea thrown alongside another." With parables and in other ways, Jesus took time and care showing his followers what a grace-filled world would look like and feel like. Jesus was passionate about everyone having enough to meet their basic needs independent of their abilities or actions. Jesus consistently demonstrated how the Reign of Heaven / Kingdom of God's style and substance would be ordered if God truly was the one in control, meaning if people kept covenant with God, with one another, and with all creation.


There are several possible interpretations of this parable that's unique to Matthew's gospel. Jesus starts with, "the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner (literally a household steward or manager, although later on verse 8 tells us "the lord of the vineyard said to his manager," so roles are somewhat conflated) and then fills out the story with a cast of characters and their attitudes. Jesus tells us the kingdom of heaven is like; he doesn't say "God is like."

Yes, God's way or the Kingdom of Heaven is about unearned, unmerited grace and not about measurable transactions. We've mentioned "exchanging gifts" is a contradiction.

Yes again, humanity and all creation cannot survive – let alone thrive – without a full measure of the material and social resources they need to be healthy and whole. Every year for the month of September through the first Sunday in October the church has an option to observe the Season of Creation instead of or in tandem with the other assigned lectionary readings. This year's overall focus is Justice for the Earth; for this Sunday 20 September the theme is "There is enough for our need – not our greed."

Jesus lived out, talked about, and called us out to social and economic justice as God and the commandments envision them. There is enough for our need – not our greed. How many times have you seen statistics based on that fact?

We find the ten words or commandments of the Sinai Covenant in Deuteronomy (and in the book of Exodus). The Torah (Pentateuch, Five Books of Moses) and especially the book of Deuteronomy articulate a way that provides for a community taking mutual care of one another. Ideally that would happen almost by default as they farmed the land, harvested its agricultural bounty, and distributed it to feed and nourish everyone. Again the best case scenario would be each household caring for its own plot that (ideally!) would be free from paying tribute to overlords or imperial rulers, and would have no need to hire outside labor.

Where we Live / COVID-19

In some ways Jesus lived in a social and economic world very different from our twenty-first century one. We've seen tenant farmers, artisans (Jesus followed in Joseph's path as a tekton, a kind of carpenter), and fishermen in the gospels. We know taxes from the occupying imperial Roman government were excessive and extreme. Food insecurity was rampant, with resulting chronic illnesses that resulted in an inability to work and bring in any income. It was moment by moment subsistence for most of the people; even Rome's minions weren't necessarily as well off as they appeared because of the high taxes and tribute they owed.

In some ways Jesus lived in a different world from ours, yet there are thousands of mostly immigrant day laborers working in fields all around us. Especially with the current pandemic, many families in this city and county are food insecure. You've probably seen news segments of school districts, restaurants, and other entities helping provide basic family meals? Many many younger children and youth had depended on getting breakfast and lunch at school for their total daily nutrition. The city of Los Angeles has a notorious number of food deserts, defined as no healthy food options such as supermarkets or farmer's markets within a radius of about one mile.

On the other side of the world, individuals literally captive to the need to feed and house their families have became indentured as field, mine, and factory workers. I've seen interviews where children happily report they get to enjoy a meal "almost every other day." There is enough for our need, but not enough for our greed.

In today's narrative, the guy doing the hiring met his own agreement to pay the workers the "usual daily wage." He did nothing unfair or unjust. There is enough for our need – not our greed. He well may have distributed his own wealth evenly in order to benefit the greater good of the broader community to which everyone belonged. We don't know; Jesus doesn't interpret this parable.


We humans tend to compare ourselves with other people, to compare where we are now with where we were then or hope to be in the future. We instinctively label pay and circumstances fair or unfair. Verse 15b, literally reads "is your eye evil because I am good?" The green eye of envy appears if it perceives someone else getting what we want or think we've earned. If we were meeting in person I'd ask if anyone knew the origins of that phrase, but now I need to look it up myself.


• Do you place yourself anywhere in today's story? As someone who worked hard all day? As someone who started working at the last hour and got the same pay as the others? As the person who needed to harvest their grapes at their peak of perfection? As someone else? Or not at all? Why?
• Most contemporary scholars don't make the landowner / hiring boss a cipher or stand-in for God, and the role does have some discontinuities. But if he doesn't symbolize God, how about identifying him with one of God's people who try to distribute scarce assets in ways that benefit everyone? Or is that a possible scenario for Jesus' time, but not for where and how we live today?
• How would you define "grace"?
• How do we live in ways that are covenantal / relational rather than transactional?
• But aren't exchanges such as labor for dollars, cash for groceries necessary? I'll mow your grass if you gift me your (heirloom) tomatoes and melons.
• Do you still sometimes compare yourself to other people?
• What's your spin on the last shall be first and the first shall be last?
• When there aren't enough living wage jobs for everyone and/or not enough workers with needed skills to fill available jobs, what is the role of industry? Of non-profits? Of local, regional, national governments? Of the church—both national church bodies and local congregations?

All of these are made up of individuals, some of whom are members of the Abrahamic faith traditions along with others who yearn for justice and a common wealth, and they can be powerful together.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Pentecost 15A

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 103:1-13

1Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless God's holy name.
2Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all God's benefits—
3God forgives all your iniquity, heals all your diseases,
4God who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5who satisfies you with good as long as you live and renews your youth like the eagle's.
6The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.
7The Lord 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 live in awe of 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.

Psalm 103 / Romans / Being Church

We often think of God blessing us, of God blessing all creation. Psalm 103 wonderfully asks us to bless God!

Check out the long list of gifts as God forgives, heals, redeems, crowns, satisfies, renews, vindicates, justifies, bestows mercy, grace, compassion. Surprisingly, the Hebrew for "steadfast love" in this passage isn't the famous chesed—It's plain old regular love.

• But how do we bless God?

Although the four canonical gospels are our primary sources about Jesus and about life together in Christ, Paul's explanations and encouragement to live the way Jesus models and calls us to are so clear it can be easy to forget he wrote Romans about 30 years prior to the CE 80 date generally considered most reliable for Matthew's Gospel, our main gospel account for this lectionary year. However, the content of all four gospels already was making rounds in the oral tradition, as were many written documents about Jesus' life and ministry. Doubtless Paul had studied those.

Romans is Paul's carefully thought through, mature theology, the seventh and the latest of his undisputed epistles. Although "undisputed" means he definitely wrote those letters, they probably received some edits from others as they circulated to different churches, so every single word and phrase is not necessarily from Paul.

We've now journeyed 75% of the way through another year of grace, and almost everything about the past six months has been a strange trip. For six plus months we haven't had the give and take of live discussion of scripture or the followup interpretations and reinforcements of music, preaching, and sacrament. This year emphasizes Matthew's gospel, but today we'll consider another passage about being church "in Christ" from the apostle Paul's letter to the church at Rome.

Today's Reading from Romans

In last week's second reading, also from Romans, amidst discussing what we owe, what we ought to do, Paul reminded us we owe each other only love: "Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law." Romans 13:8

The situation that prompted today's passage was Roman Christians divisions over dietary laws 14:2 – vegetarians versus omnivores?! and special observance of particular days 14:5 – set apart feast days versus all days alike (all days sanctified?).

This isn't about doctrine and behavior central to Christianity. This isn't about Jesus crucified and risen, about Jesus' charge to baptize and to celebrate the Lord's Supper. It's not about loving one another.

They had become seriously split over peripheral non-essentials. Paul calls them back to the foundational fact of togetherness in Christ, to the basic attitude and action of agape love that's God-like, grace-filled, unconditional life-giving care of another, love that emerges from a decision of the will, not from fleeting whims.

As Paul discussed obligations, debts, payback, what we ought to do – both financial and behavioral – he reminded us we owe each other only love: "Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law." Romans 13:8

In today's reading, Paul calls the Romans Christians and his future readers (that includes us) back to the essential practice of love in the midst of non-essentials. Especially Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin talked about practices and behaviors neither commanded nor forbidden by Jesus and by scripture. You may have heard or seen the word adiaphora? That could include dietary practices Paul specifies here, it would encompass observing the sanctoral cycle that commemorates festivals, saints, and past church leaders: Transfiguration; John the Baptist; Augustine; Susanna, John, and Charles Wesley; John XXIII; Teresa of Kolkata… Paul also suggests if eating meat or sushi around your vegetarian friends offends them, you might not do it when they're near. If someone considers Gregorian chant anachronistic and irrelevant for worship during the year 2020, maybe omit it from your regular hymnody? Very seriously, if your drinking wine or beer or other spirits tempts your acquaintance who's been clean and sober for 6 years, please abstain when you're together. Etc.

Regarding worship and individual lifestyles, different streams of Christianity have had different habits, preferences, and practices. Even within the same Christian tradition or denomination, different local churches can feel worlds apart. And that's more than okay!

"Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister?" Romans 14:10

Do you think someone else's Hillsong music is inferior to the songs you prefer to sing in church? Is non-organic produce the ultimately deal-breaker?

Paul constantly reminds us Jesus' death and resurrection is the reality that informs and determines the church's life and witness.

• How do we bless God?

Being Neighbors

"Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law." Romans 13:10

Most times Paul uses the word law he means sacrificial, ceremonial law (including circumcision), but in this case he's referring to the ten words or commandments of the Sinai covenant.

This week's passage reminds us being in Christ, crucified and risen, is our essential identity. Aside from Word and Sacrament that in the Holy Spirit literally equip us for lives of agape love, most ceremonial, dietary, and other practices in church and in other aspects of everyday life are neither commanded nor forbidden; they are 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 sometimes even preferences of the other.

• How do we bless God?

Distinctive Differences / COVID-19

Christians legitimately may disagree about many incidentals of our lives together, both as siblings in Christ with those in other traditions, and within particular congregation(s) we identity with and participate in.

• What practices have you differed and maybe argued about in churches you've been part of?
• What practices have you differed and possibly argued about in your nuclear or extended family?
• What opinions do we differ about at the ballot box?
• Are propositions and initiatives that have become so common west of the Mississippi (but virtually unknown on the other side of that river) a good idea or not?
• Has COVID-19 changed or modified your opinion as to what's really important?
• Has COVID-19 reinforced some of your convictions? Has it softened some of them?
• How do we welcome each other despite our differences?

You may have heard, "In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, in all things charity." Several denominations and other groups use that phrase as a sort of tagline, and they describe Paul's counsel very well.

• How do we bless God?

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Pentecost 14A

Romans 13:8-14

8Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet"; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

11Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Prayer Psalm 119:33-40

I desire the path of your commandments, the path of life in you.

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

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

Climate Justice – Racial Justice – COVID-19

Anyone who tries to comprehend the scale of destruction caused by hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and wildfires, the centuries-long history and ongoing reality of white supremacy (in the USA and other countries, too), the immeasurable losses and increasing uncertainty from COVID-19 realizes no individual or group can change any of this on their own by themselves…


Again today we have a reading from the letter or epistle to the Church at Rome. Romans is the seventh and the last of Paul's undisputed epistles. "Undisputed" means writings that carry marks of his authorship in terms of vocabulary, syntax, grammar, sentence structure, and theology. At the time he wrote Romans, the apostle Paul hadn't yet been to Rome.

Law & Gospel

Sometimes we contrast Law and Gospel when we interpret scripture, but God's law and God's gospel both are gifts of grace that mirror each other.

"Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law." Romans 13:8

Almost every time the apostle Paul uses the word law, he refers to ceremonial-sacrificial-ritual law and not to the ten words [decalogue] or commandments of the Sinai Covenant; but here he definitely means the commandments. He even specifies four of them!

In today's reading from Romans, all the words translated into "love" are agape in Greek. Agape love is God-like, grace-filled, unconditional, life-giving care not based on emotion or whims. Agape love guides and fills the Ten Words of the Sinai Covenant that was God's gift to the people before they crossed the Jordan River into land where they'd settle and farm. Inspired and enacted through us by the Holy Spirit, as "Working Papers" for our life together, the commandments help us create heaven on earth.

Politics & Economics

Every since solitary Abram left Ur of the Chaldeans as the beginning of his descendants becoming more in number than grains of sand on the shore or stars in the night sky, being human has meant being governed and/or governing others; being human has meant barter and exchange in order to meet everyday needs.

• Political? Scripture is loaded with verses and passages about living together and interacting with each other.

• Economic? Scripture is full of information and counsel about money, payments, and related obligations.

A cash economy (rather than barter or trade) as the primary means of payment and exchange evolves when a population becomes large enough. We necessarily think and act in transactional ways. How much do I owe on my car note? Do debits and credits on this spreadsheet balance or not? Can I afford this purchase or would it be wise to compromise by getting something less expensive or not buying anything at all? Wants versus needs?!

In the world of the bible, debt and sin essentially were synonymous. Jesus walked, talked, and taught in a world colonized by yet another empire, where "regular people" constantly got slammed by imperial taxes, where most of the "little people" owed their souls to the company store.

Today's second reading tells us we owe each other only love!

This Time / This Now

"Besides this, you know what time [season / kairos] it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers." Romans 13:11

The bible has two different words we translate into "time": chronos is similar to our clocks and calendars that situate an action at a measurable point—our regular appointment every Monday at 3:00pm, another day, another dollar on 25 October 2024 are chronos or chronological time. Kairos is an unrepeatable, life-transforming point—the birth of your child on a particular Wednesday at 6:32am; the Declaration of American colonial Independence from Britain on 04 July 1776 are kairos moments.

In this short reading from Romans, Paul says this right now, this very moment, is the right time to practice love for everyone. Don't wait! Just do it! We've heard about living on borrowed time, a phrase that often refers to someone whose physical life has continued beyond a predicted "expiration date." We've been learning verifiable facts about COVID-19, planet earth, and groups that have been left behind, left out…

You Are What You Eat / We Are What We Wear

"Put on the Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 13:14

This is the same word as putting on clothes—literally "Clothe yourself in Christ." What you wear at least partly reveals who you are. Some professions have a distinctive uniform that announces who you are and why you're here. With fire and law enforcement personnel (for example), official garb and gear can be necessary and functional. Other situations have more flexibility. Where do I plan to go today? Which of my identities will I mostly rock? What's the weather forecast?

Baptism clothes us in Christ; "dresses us up" in the Holy Spirit of creation, redemption, and sanctification. Baptized into the Trinity we wear a life of agape love that regards every human, critter, and natural neighbor as infinitely valuable and not as objects to be used, exploited, and discarded. During Luke's lectionary year we discussed neighborology – the word about the neighbor – a lot! Agape love is a major word and action about our neighbors. Agape love regards everyone and everything as created in the divine image.

Today's Questions

• Are love and hate opposites? I've heard indifference is the opposite of love. What do you think?

• Or can both be the case?

In addition to the gift of prayer that connects us to the heart of God, how can we fulfill God's obligations and demands by loving right here and now (especially in the USA) related to:

• COVID-19
• Environmental degradation and climate justice
• Racial/ethnic justice and reconciliation – would these possibly include reparations for certain groups?

I frequently point out our actions are synergistic and add up to more than the sum of their individual parts. There's been too much online pushback related to mask-wearing; apparently physical distancing is most effective around other people, but masks help some. Along with the rest of the world, the USA needs elected and appointed leaders who will love Planet Earth into revitalization and restoration. One person=only one vote? Yes, but those votes add up and countless elections have been won or lost by a single yea or nay. It feels to me that in those cases indifference would be the opposite of love.

• What actions would you ideally take related to these three concerns?
• If ideal can't happen, where would you start?