Saturday, June 18, 2022

Pentecost 2C

Psalm 22:25-28

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear God.

The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before God.

For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and God rules over the nations.

Galatians 3:23-29

23Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.

27As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.

The Season of Pentecost

After fifty days of Easter that concluded with the fire and wind of the Day of Pentecost, followed by Trinity – a unique Sunday named after a doctrine rather than an event – we're seriously into the half-year long segment of Ordinary Time when we count Sundays after Pentecost. Because God is triune or three-in-one, one-in-three, every Sunday is Trinity Sunday, but it's cool to have a special day to worship Trinity as mystery without trying to explain the unexplainable.

Beginning with Advent, the first half of the year tracked Jesus' earthly life and the Acts of Jesus' First Apostles. We'll continue with narratives from both Old and New Testaments, along with more formally theologically passages like today's from the Apostle Paul, yet the upcoming six months supremely are Time of the Church, Season of the Spirit of Pentecost. Our time!


Galatians

The church at Galatia was the first ethnic church in terms of culture and geography. Biblically, they also were ethnos because they were gentiles. The words Galatia, Gaulle, Gaelic, Celt, Celtic all come from the same root.

In his letter to the Galatians the apostle Paul emphasizes the gospel of death and resurrection with its central theme of freedom. In Galatians Paul cautions us about human-made laws such as sacrifice, ceremony, keeping kosher, and circumcision—that's what he's talking about most of the time Paul says law. In today's scripture he finally talks about law as the ten words (decalogue) or commandments of the Sinai covenant. Especially Lutheran and Reformed theological traditions often cite three uses of the law/commandments: to draw people to Christ; to convict us of sin; to lead people to correct behaviors.


Freedom and Juneteenth

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 3:28

My seminary professor who taught the Pauline Letters announced to the class, "This ain't Emancipation Proclamation, people!"

At the time of this letter, categories of Jew/gentile, male/female, slave/free were central and critical in the Greco-Roman world. In the twenty-first century (of course) there still are Jews and Greeks, women and men and non-binaries, young and old, rural and urban. Paul was referring to Jesus breaking down ranks of superior-inferior, better-lesser, worthy-unworthy. In addition, Jesus obliterated the practice of separating people with certain traits from people with other traits… "segregation."

As Paul also loves to remind us, because Jesus Christ has freed us from sin and death, we now are free to live as servants to all. The NT uses two different words that translate into English as both servant and slave.

This year Juneteenth happens on the Sunday the lectionary has appointed this text. When we read scripture, we first need to ask about the original context and intent to the extent we can know it. As comforting as it may feel, we can't flip open the bible and apply a sweet-sounding verse to our current life circumstances.

With ever-increasing awareness of the history of chattel slavery in the USA and this Sunday's Juneteenth commemoration, interpreting Paul's announcement, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female; you are one in Christ Jesus," as an early emancipation proclamation won't fly, yet it still reflects Jesus' own behavior and his call to us to welcome, include, and appreciate everyone's unique gifts and contributions.

In baptism a solitary, isolated, individual becomes part of the gathered body of Christ and assumes one of many differentiated roles and positions appropriate to their gifts and experience. We keep our unique gifts (food, music, accounting, administration, hospitality, art, teaching, etc.), but our baptismal identity in Christ becomes central. In baptism we don't go from being a solitary, isolated, individual to becoming part of an undifferentiated blob, but to serve freely in a body filled with rich diversity, an organism where everyone is poorer without the other.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Trinity Sunday 2022

Come, Join the Dance of Trinity

1 Come, join the dance of Trinity, before all worlds begun—
the interweaving of the Three, the Father, Spirit, Son.
The universe of space and time did not arise by chance,
but as the Three, in love and hope, made room within their dance.

4 Within the dance of Trinity, before all worlds begun,
we sing the praises of the Three, the Father, Spirit, Son.
Let voices rise and interweave, by love and hope set free,
to shape in song this joy, this life: the dance of Trinity

Text: Richard Leach; © 2001 Selah Publishing Co., Inc.
Tune: Kingsfold


Romans 5:1-5

1Therefore, because we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

3And not only that, but we also rejoice in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Reading in Romans

Today's passage from Romans refers to all three persons of the Holy Trinity as they particularly relate to human aspects of creation and human experience.

The letter to the church at Rome is the seventh and last of the apostle Paul's undisputed epistles that contain strong evidence of his authorship. We sometimes refer to Romans as Paul's systematic theology—systematics is the philosophical-style theology that presents ideas about God and creation with formal definitions, outlines, logic, and structure. Compared to the styles and standards of theologians like Karl Rahner and Karl Barth, Romans isn't particularly systematic, but it still gives us Paul's mature, well-developed theology.


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 church didn't articulate the doctrine or teaching of God as Triune until 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicaea that gave us the Nicene Creed.

The Trinity is a mystery! Our human brains insist on trying to describe it, but most attempts ending up with the heresy of modalism. Those would include ice, water, vapor; son, friend, brother, yet they provide at least a faint clue.

Humans casually assign characteristic traits to each Person, but in reality they all participate together in every aspect of the life of the world.


Perichoresis

However, the early church used the term perichoresis or "dancing around." We know peri from peripatetic, perimeter, perigee, periscope… I found a whole lot of words starting with peri! Some are about around / surround, others – like my favorite periwinkle – maybe aren't, though one website suggested "periwinkle" may have come from entwine, so that qualifies. Dance words like choreography and choreographer relate to choresis; chord and anchor probably don't. Perichoresis pictures Trinity as dynamic mutual indwelling in unity, union, harmony, agreement, concord, consonance…

The Holy (Holy, Holy) Trinity models our interactive and cooperative lifestyles and ministries. Baptized into participation in the life of the triune God in the world, for the world, the church [us!] lives as the Image of the Trinity. The hymn sings, "Let voices rise and interweave, by love and hope set free, to shape in song this joy, this life: the dance of Trinity."


The Trinity and the Means of Grace

Jesus charges his followers – the church – to proclaim the Gospel in word and action. Jesus calls us to baptize and literally to re-member him by breaking the bread of life and offering the cup of salvation. Created, redeemed, sanctified, we reveal the triune gospel to the world when we live our daily lives as sacraments that mediate between earth and heaven. The church as community and each of us as individuals nurtured and discipled by that community take our cues and clues from the perichoresis of the Trinity.

"The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered." Philipp Melanchthon, Augsburg Confession, from Article 7

"Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christ's institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists." John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 4, chapter 1, section 9.


Watch this Space!

Although we set aside one Sunday each year to celebrate the Trinity, every Sunday is Trinity Sunday, every day is Trinitarian for us as Christians. Next week we'll start counting Sundays after Pentecost as the Church moves into its own during a six-month long stretch of green and growing season of Ordinary [ordered, structured, arranged] Time. We'll continue walking the talk as we minister to worlds around us. We're not yet post-COVID, yet the pandemic has given the church more reason than usual to try out new possibilities, to be more imaginative than usual. Baptized into the Dance of Trinity, we minister to a world that meets us as the presence of the Triune God.

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Pentecost 2022

Romans 8:14-21

14All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

18I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

The Day of Pentecost

During the first half of the year that began at Advent, we waited for Jesus' arrival and rejoiced at his birth. The Epiphany season was about Jesus as light of the world and redeemer of all, not only Israel. We followed Jesus' earthly ministry as he called, taught, and ate with followers who became friends. After Jesus' death and the surprise of his resurrection, for fifty days – a week of weeks, seven times seven – we kept on keeping' on celebrating Easter.

The fiftieth day of Easter, the Day of Pentecost is the third great Trinitarian Festival. Pentecost celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit in a concentrated, broad, and spectacular manner and initiates a six-month long stretch of the church's year of grace that especially emphasizes our ministries modeled on those of Jesus and the original twelve.

Almost everyone considers Luke's Acts 2 account of the arrival of the Spirit the pentecostal paradigm. Visible audible signs of fire and wind result in a true common-wealth that's been imitated but never duplicated. (Scholars believe Luke and his cohorts did a fair amount of idealizing and fantasizing when they composed the Acts of the First Apostles.) However, all scriptures for this day help establish the style and direction of our next six months.


Reading from Romans

Romans is the seventh and last of the apostle Paul's undisputed epistles. "Undisputed" means they carry strong evidence of his authorship. Today's famous passage from Romans is about God claiming us as children of heaven along with interdependence of human creatures (that's us!) and what we sometimes refer to as the natural creation. What happens with us affects all creation; what happens in the rest of creation affects humanity.


God's Kids – Everyone's Sibs

Paul tells us the Spirit of God makes us God's children. He says we no longer have the spirit of slavery, which in that culture would have meant actual bondservants or chattel slaves. However, humans everywhere all the time often find themselves "enslaved" or almost helplessly connected to sins, objects, and behaviors that violate the commandments. Besides, just about everyone has hard to break habits that technically aren't sinful yet in the long run have negative outcomes.

Today we're only considering this passage from Romans, but Jesus redefined family so that all humanity now and across the centuries are brothers and sisters to one another. What is more, this scripture makes ample room for us to affirm all creation our relatives, after the manner of Saints Francis and Claire of Assisi and many others. How about you? How about me?

By grace the HS creates each of us in God's image at our first birth and again at our second birth in baptism; water and word make us siblings to Jesus and to each other. Although the HS is active throughout scripture, the world becomes especially kindred by the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit resonates with our spirit that we are God's adopted offspring; because of this we inherit everything Christ inherits. You may remember God calling Jesus Beloved Son at his baptism? God does the same for us at baptism. Throughout the centuries, adoption has been a complicated concept; you've heard of one sibling accusing another, "You're adopted!" I love thinking of adoption as parental choice—chosen, claimed, embraced.

Can we always make room for one more at the table? Not only the Lord's Table, but afterwards because Jesus' Holy Communion is the model for our ongoing lives together. Like a family that adopts or fosters, is there always room for one more around our table? Why would we exclude anyone from the nourishment of meals or from the nourishment of community? Having said that, I realize there are complicated situations.


Creation Waits, Hopes, and Expects

As Acts 1:6-8 describes it, Jesus' disciples ask him if at this time he will restore the [Davidic] kingdom to Israel. Jesus tells them their question is wrong and counsels them to wait! Because they will receive the Spirit, and because of the HS they will be Jesus' witnesses to the ends of the earth. In other words, Jesus' followers will be the ones to restore God's reign on earth and it won't be shiny opulent bling. The reign of heaven on earth will be abundant life. The world will flourish with love, mercy, justice, and shalom sufficiency for everyone, not only Israel.

Whenever I read wait, hope, or expect in any scripture text, I always find it helpful to remember the same word in Spanish espero (esperare, etc.) means hope, expect, and wait.

In Romans Paul insists all creation waits for redemption because true children of God, humans who authentically mirror and embody their Divine Image, care for the earth in ways that reflect their Divine Nature. All creation carries within itself breath of the Divine and breathes the Spirit of Life. We are kin with all creation! We belong together!

Christianity proclaims God's definitive self-revelation in Jesus of Nazareth, in a body formed from the "stuff" of the earth. Now the Holy Spirit fills and indwells our bodies and we become God's presence on earth.

Do you as an individual or as part of a faith community have any special plans for the Season of the Spirit, Time of the Church during the next six months?

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Easter 7C

Revelation 22:12-14,16-17,20-21

12"See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone's work. 13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."
14Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.
16"It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."
17The Spirit and the bride say, "Come."
And let everyone who hears say, "Come."
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
20The one who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon."
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
21The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

Easter 7 / Revelation

Easter is fifty days, a week of week, a season that occupies one-seventh of the year! For lectionary year C, the second reading for Easter 2 through 7 comes from Revelation, the last book of the bible. Revelation is full of code words, symbols, and apocalyptic imagery that all need to be interpreted. When it was written, insiders would have understood it applied to Rome's Caesar Domitian, yet "Babylon" serves as a cipher and stand-in for empires in general; the book's symbolism and counsel can apply to almost any empire anywhere at any time.


Backtracking

The Revelation passage for Easter 5 pictured the city of God, the New Jerusalem, literally descending from heaven. A safe place that welcomes everyone.

Last week Easter 6 celebrated the river that flows through the city with the healing tree of life on the riverbanks.

Revelation isn't a short book, and choosing a reading for each of six Sundays necessarily omits a lot of material that relates well to our ministries. This is a book of sevens: seven letters to seven churches; a scroll with seven seals; seven thunders; seven angels; seven bowls; seven plagues.


New Heaven /New Earth

Genesis 1 and 2 are the first books in the bible; in Genesis 2 the first creation includes a garden, a tree of life, and a river of life. Revelation is the last book; in Revelation the new creation includes a city, a tree of life, and a river of life. Sounds very green to me! Maybe surprisingly, the new creation is about a new earth and a new heaven!

We've been discussing Revelation as a guidebook to living baptized amidst empire. When we follow that counsel and the world looks at us, the church, does it look like the best place possible? Does the church look like heaven on earth?


City of God

All God's creation is beautiful, yet many people idealize and almost idolize less-developed areas like wilderness, outback, tiny towns, rural wide spots in the road, and beach paradises. Even now, many parents aspire to raise families in suburban or exurban places with less traffic, lower population density, and what they perceive as better schools and services. Yet scripture reveals a city as the center of God's new creation. Not the apparently forsaken desert of exodus wanderings that was the site of Israel's identity-formation, but the city:

• Most cities are built along a waterway that creates a literal crossroads with multiple land, air, water ports of entry.
• These crossroads bring together near-infinite ethnic, class, educational, and cultural diversity that create many kinds of fusions: language; music; religion; cuisine; fashion. You can list lots more! Does this lead to cultural appropriation? Nah! Mostly cultural appreciation!
• And so much more!

What's your general opinion of countryside vs. city?

What's your take on a green city as the center of the New Creation?


The Bible Concludes

The one who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon."
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with us all. Amen!

Friday, May 20, 2022

Easter 6C

Revelation 21:10, 22 - 22:1-5

Revelation 21


10And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me thje holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.

22 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.

Revelation 22

1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Tree of Life Revelation 22:2
"The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations" | "There grows a tree in Paradise. The Pilgrims called it the Tree of Life…"

Easter is a Season

Easter is 50 days, a week of weeks, 7 x 7. Easter season readings in the lectionary began with stories that mostly featured people who followed Jesus during his earthly ministry. As the weeks rolled by, they reached outward to begin embracing people from other places and cultures. Two Sundays from now we'll celebrate the 50th day of Easter, the Day of Pentecost (wear red!) that initiates the long Season of the Spirit-Time of the Church with mostly green Sundays.


Revelation

In the beginning of the bible, Genesis 1 and 2 have very different narratives of the first or original creation; the last book in the biblical canon, Revelation, continues into a new creation that's both new earth and new heaven.

Ever since Abram and Sarai left Ur on their way to the place God would show them, humans have been political animals.

You probably know the basic chronology of scripture with the liberation of God's people from slavery in Egypt; a decades-long desert trek to the Land of Promise; exile to Babylon by another empire; a journey home with subsequent restoration of worship, community, and commerce; prophets who spoke for God and against the establishments. Then Jesus, Emmanuel, God-With-Us. All along the way God prepared the people to live together in freedom as they welcomed the sojourning "other-than-us" stranger, strove for distributive justice so everyone had enough, no one too much, and stewarded the land as part of God's covenant call.


This Week

We've been discussing Revelation as a guidebook for living baptized amidst empire, violence, alienation, and death—in this year 2022's terminology, a map for resistance! Last week's Revelation text (here's the blog for Easter 5) celebrated a God so passionate about the world that God chose to live amidst creation as one of us in a body like ours formed out of the stuff of the earth. Today's second reading finally shows us the new creation as a place where garden and city, native-born and immigrant, past and future meet.

Today's text pictures a city literally descending from heaven, a place of safety that welcomes everyone. The city gates always are open; God's presence permeates and lights the city all the time, without the fearsome dangers night and darkness in an urban area often bring.


Parallel Scripture

In the Good Book we discover many almost parallel passages. Today's from Revelation has a similar feel to one in Ezekiel, but without a temple, "for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb." (21:22) After he lines out technical instructions for a restored temple, Ezekiel's vision expands to a preview of a New Jerusalem. By the way, Ezekiel was a priest in the holiness tradition of the J-temple, so he could not have imagined a Jerusalem without a temple.
from Ezekiel 47:1, 7, 9, 12

1Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. ... 7As I came back, I saw on the bank of the river a great many trees on the one side and on the other. ... 9Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes. ... 12On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Easter 5C

Revelation 21:1-6

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. God will dwell with them as their God; they will be God's peoples, and God will be with them; 4God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away."

5And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, 'Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." 6Then he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life."

Easter is Fifty Days

Easter is a week of weeks: 7 times 7. The day of Pentecost, our third great Trinitarian festival that celebrates the Holy Spirit, is the fiftieth day of Easter. The fifty days of Easter take up about 1/7 of a calendar year. On his Liturgy website, Bosco Peters recently observed that one-seventh of a year fact makes the Easter season into its own Sabbath day, since each day of a week is a seventh of the entire week. (Why didn't I think of that?!)

Easter 4 blog from last week


Revelation

Today I wrote to the "vision" prompt for the weekly Five Minute Friday free write and riffed on the first four verses of today's passage.

For all seven Sundays of Easter in Luke's lectionary year C, the second reading comes from Revelation. Bookends in the Christian canon of scripture parallel:

• First Creation – Genesis 1 and 2: Tree of Life, River of Life, and a Garden

• New Creation – Revelation 21 and 22: Tree of Life, River of Life, and a City that grows out of a well-tended garden—the garden of resurrection?!

Much of Revelation is in the literary style of apocalyptic that uses symbolic language and physical symbols to uncover and reveal what's otherwise hidden. Other scriptural examples of apocalypse include sections of Ezekiel and Daniel, parts of Isaiah, and some passages in gospels of Mark and Luke.

Revelation was written down by an unknown author during the reign of Roman emperor Domitian and shows us how empires operate. It's not quite a road map, yet somewhat of a guide book for living baptized in the context of empire—whether imperial-style national governments or trans-national consumer entities that creep into almost every aspect of the planet's existence.


Today's Scripture

This chapter of Revelation finally starts to talk about the new creation that's a New Earth and also a New Heaven!

"The sea was no more" in Revelation 21:1 isn't about ecological disaster—scripture often makes oceans and seas code for untamed chaos. In the famous passage that opens Genesis 1 the Spirit of God hovers and breathes and speaks over the "deep," the unordered chaotic waters. In our baptism with Water and Word, God calls and enables us to tame, order, and limit the chaos of empire.

Today's poetry and much of both OT and NT are about a God so in love with Creation that God chooses to make a home on earth in the midst of creation, in a body formed from the stuff of creation—in Jesus of Nazareth, and now in us, Jesus' Spirit-filled, Spirit-led followers. Christianity is earthbound and embodied!

Revelation 21:3 where God "makes a home with mortals" uses the same word as in John 1:14 (the gospel according to John). Late Pastor Eugene Peterson translates it as God "pitching a tent" that allows God to journey step by step alongside us. We find a similar image in the Exodus desert account with God's presence in a cloud by day, fire by night, and in the ark of the covenant the people carried with them.


Concluding song, Peace In Our Time

…by Eddie Money, from The Sound Of Money

You and I know what love is worth
We're gonna build a heaven on earth
Gonna make love the bottom line
Gonna find peace in our time
We're gonna build a heaven here on earth
Turning water, water into wine making love the bottom line
Finding peace, peace in our time…

Saturday, May 07, 2022

Easter 4C

Revelation 7:9-17

9After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!" 11And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12singing, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen."

13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?" 14I said to him, "Sir, you are the one that knows." Then he said to me, "These are they who have come out [who are (still) coming out] of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

Easter is Fifty Days / Good Shepherd Sunday

Easter is a week of weeks: 7 times 7. In all three lectionary years, Easter 4 always is Good Shepherd Sunday. That means the responsive psalm is…23. In this second reading from Revelation, the Lamb is the Shepherd; the Shepherd is the Lamb.


Revelation I

Last Sunday's Easter 3 blog

Genesis 1 and 2 are the first books in the biblical canon. A garden (not a city!) with a tree of life and a river of life comes with the original creation. Revelation is the last book in the bible. Revelation reveals the new creation with the garden of resurrection grown into a city, the "new Jerusalem" that like the old city of Jerusalem forms an axis mundi to connect earth and heaven. This city has life-giving trees and a river of life but unlike the old Jerusalem, it has no temple.

Long tradition says the yet unidentified author "John" wrote from the Roman prison island of Patmos in present-day Turkey, though recent scholarship suggests John could have been an itinerant preacher who made Patmos a regular stop on his circuit. Revelation's author very definitely is not John the Evangelist whose community brought us the 4th gospel. To help discern authorship we look at internal evidence such as grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary, references to people, places, events.

We're previously mentioned apocalyptic means uncovering, unveiling, revealing—the book of Revelation even begins with the author telling us it's an apocalypse.


Revelation II

Revelation is not an indecipherable collection of strange sayings or predictions of events future to when John the Revelator recorded it. Just as with much literature and a lot of human conversations, it includes symbols, code words, and figures of speech.

Mainline Catholic and Protestant Christians have been very very cautious about public reading and interpretation of this book. Somewhere I read that Orthodox Churches don't include Revelation in their lectionary schedule of scripture readings. Continental European Reformers Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli famously did not believe Revelation belonged in the bible; John Calvin wrote a commentary on every NT book except Revelation. On that always there other hand, you've likely heard of the Left Behind and Late Great Planet Earth books that flooded best seller lists a few decades ago and still have currency and clout in certain circles.


Revelation III

Written during the reign of Roman Caesar Domitian, Revelation shows us how empires operate and provides subversive, counter cultural ways to resist. Rome was one in a long series of empires that continues globally through this year 2022. Revelation is a liturgical, political, counter-imperial text, a guidebook and a map for living out our baptism into Jesus' death and resurrection as an alternative to imperial violence and death.

"This is the Feast," the hymn of praise we sing in the liturgy many Sundays comes from Revelation 7:12. It brings us seven (the number of completion and perfection) words of praise to God and to the Lamb:

1. Blessing 2. glory 3. wisdom 4. thanksgiving 5. honor 6. power 7. might

These words make anti-imperial claims that only God is Lord. Not caesar. Not even the elected president or prime minister of any democratic nation. Not anything else or anyone else.

Although the hymn of praise in the liturgy announces, "This is the Feast of Victory for our God," Revelation 7:10 proclaims God's salvation and not victory. Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza reminds us in that culture the concept of salvation (brought by a Savior, of course) was synonymous with the fullness of God's reign described in this passage as no hunger or thirst, no scorching heat (or icy cold), no sorrow or tears—essentially Shalom. She also points out how close this was to the supposed Pax Romana of the Roman emperor that instead dealt out cruelty, death, and devastation.


Today's Scripture

"After this" at this start of today's text beginning at verse 9 refers to verses 4-8 and their description of the 144,000 plus tribes of Israel along with people, ethnicities, nations, languages, cultures, everywhere that fulfill God's promise to Abram of faithful descendants greater in number than stars in the sky, more than grains of sand. Some of those faithful descendants include us, the church with Jesus Christ as ultimate authority under the cross of Calvary. Please note these people still stand solidly on earth and have not been raptured.

7:14 Those who have come out of the mega ordeal—in the Greek—still are coming out. The church lives out its baptismal call and identity in Jesus' death and resurrection alongside the pain and suffering in the world. God in the Spirit calls and enables us to be a counter-force to the deadly violence of empire.

7:15 The Shepherd-Lamb on the throne will shelter us with a dwelling, booth, tent, tabernacle. Same word as in John 1:14 that tells us the pre-existent word became flesh and lived in our midst, literally "pitched a tent," a portable structure (¿¡ramada?!) that would go with us wherever we journeyed. You can read more about God's presence in the Ark of the Covenant and the Festival of Booths / Succoth.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Easter 3C

Revelation 5:1-14

1Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals; 2and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" 3And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. 4And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals."

6Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. 8When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9They sing a new song:

"You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God
saints from every tribe and language and people and nation;
10you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God,
and they will reign on earth."

11Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12singing with full voice,

"Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!"

13Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,

"To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might
forever and ever!"

14And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" And the elders fell down and worshiped.

Easter is 50 Days – Revelation Concludes the Bible

Easter 2 blog from last Sunday

As I blogged last week, Revelation reveals in coded insider language how empires everywhere operate, but more urgently and beyond graciously, this last book of the biblical canon reveals in Pastor Scott Hoezee's apt turn of phrase "another whole world" from the default Roman or other empire that objectifies life as it reigns and rains death.

As we practice resurrection for all seven Sundays and fifty days of Easter in this lectionary year C – Luke's year – the second reading for today and subsequent weeks moves toward the last page of the bible with its vision of God bringing heaven to earth, God living among us (notice an echo of John's gospel) and the reality of the new City of God (Jerusalem in this text) with its river of life and healing trees along the riverbank.


Today's Scripture…

…comes after the author John's pastoral letters to seven churches. The number "Seven" of completion or perfection is so prominent throughout, we can consider Revelation a book of sevens (and not, not 666). As I mentioned last week, this John is not the beloved apostle John whose community brought us the fourth gospel. Strong tradition says Rome had exiled John the revelator to the prison island of Patmos; more recent scholarship suggests he may have been an itinerant preacher, with Patmos a regular stop on his circuit.

After verse 5, the author no longer portrays Jesus as the conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, but as Lamb whose death – and resurrection – has redeemed all creation. As a kind of lead-in to the rest of the book that culminates with the fullness of the New Creation, this chapter features a symphony of praise, acclaim, blessings, and amens from heavenly angels with "every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea."

Referencing Psalms and Isaiah that also report exuberant, joy-filled, non-human creation, OT specialist Walter Brueggemann reminds us, "Of course trees sing! No more clear-cutting! Of course oceans roar! No more pollution!" Each of us has our own list of where, what, and who on earth we're most passionate about restoring, redeeming—sometimes simply maintaining so it doesn't become extinct. BTW, a myriad is 10,000. Citizens and colonials were expected to acclaim the Roman emperor "Worthy" whenever he came into town, making Worthy is the Lamb speech that subverts empire and threatens the status quo.

You may recognize Handel's Messiah, familiar hymns, and parts of the Sunday liturgy in this passage.

Over the next four Sundays we'll continue to discuss interpreting Revelation as a roadmap for living well and faithfully in this other "whole world" of a redeemed creation in spite of inescapable empire.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Easter 2C

Revelation 1:1-8

1The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.

3Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near.

4John to the seven churches that are in Asia:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6and made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

7Look! He is coming with the clouds;
every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.

So it is to be. Amen.

8"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Easter is 50 Days

In its place in the church's chronological year of grace, Easter is 50 days, a week of weeks—7x7. However, Easter is actually 24/7/365. You may remember Lenten Sundays are in but not of Lent? That's because we celebrate every Sunday as a day of resurrection.

During the fifty days of Easter, the first reading comes from the New Testament book of Acts rather than from the Old Testament. In Matthew's year A, Mark's year B, and Luke's year C, the gospel usually is from John, the fourth gospel that doesn't get its own year in the RCL. Easter season scripture readings begin with accounts that mostly feature people who followed Jesus during his earthly ministry. As weeks roll by, the stories reach further outward to begin introducing and embracing people from other places and cultures. On the fiftieth day or eighth Sunday of Easter, the Day of Pentecost initiates the long Season of the Spirit/ Time of the Church.


Revelation

From the second through the seventh Sunday of Easter during this Revised Common Lectionary year C (Luke's year), the second reading comes from Revelation. The book that concludes the New Testament is highly apocalyptic, written mostly in coded symbolic language only insiders would know how to interpret. Apocalyptic uncovers or reveals something that's hidden. The author John the Revelator is not John the Beloved Disciple whose community brought us the fourth gospel; clearly he is not John the Baptist who was beheaded.

John may have been exiled to prison on Patmos, a type of Alcatraz for Roman prisoners of state, probably in present day Turkey in Asia Minor. Or Patmos could have been a scheduled stop on John's preaching circuit. Revelation was written during the late 90s during the reign of Roman emperor Caesar Domitian. In addition to other content, it includes a famous series of pastoral letters to seven churches; very briefly, the book shows us how empires everywhere operate. Contrary to the traditional view, recent scholarship says there's no historical evidence of widespread persecution of Christians at that time, but pressure instead on Christians to take part in the imperial cult—remember, the empire was a god! Beyond religious, the empire's cult was political, economic, and social. John the author challenges too much accommodation to empire of too many supposed followers of Jesus' way that subverted conventional religious, political, economic, and social ideologies and practices.


Genesis to Revelation

Bookends in the canon of scripture reveal God as origin and end of all things:

Genesis 1 and 2, the first books in the canon of the bible bring us the original creation with:

• tree of life.
• river of life.
• a garden.

Revelation, the last book in the biblical canon, brings us the new creation with:

• tree of life.
• river of life.
• a city that grows out of a well-tended garden. Is this a new Garden of Eden? Not quite.


Where We Live

Like all scripture, Revelation was not written to us or for us, but like the rest of scripture, we can interpret quite a lot of it for our own context, always keeping in mind our first question needs to be the historical one about the text's origin. Revelation shows how empires everywhere operate. It's somewhat of a guide book for living baptized amidst empire—or any agent of death that threatens to overcome us.

During his ministry, Jesus called, taught, and showed his followers into God's earthbound heavenly way of justice, love, mercy, and inclusion. In the wake of his death and resurrection, Jesus calls us to live baptized into the fullness of the new creation. Regarding the book of Revelation, responsible interpretation calls us out of the post- or pre-millennialism of the Left Behind series and similar literalist fiction. BTW, I've read some about which is what, but it's not part of my theological tradition or education and I can't clearly outline much of it.

Whether political (biblical Egypt, Babylon, Persia; later on Spain, Netherlands, Great Britain; present-day USA, Russian Federation), or economic/consumerist (Nestlé, GM, Exxon Mobil, Samsung, P&G, Amazon—what's on your list?), every one has swallowed up dozens of smaller entities on the way to market domination. Empires seek to assume the place of God; they surreptitiously creep into almost every aspect of existence and frequently become gods according to the definition of a god as humanity's ultimate reference and final recourse.

If in fact John was exiled and imprisoned on Patmos when he spoke out against Rome and its death-dealing violence, it's no stretch to interpret his situation as parallel to Alexei Navalny's imprisonment by Russia today, and similar to that of too many less well-known political dissidents.

As it ideally continues to do in the power of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost, early Christianity symbolized and routinely acted as subversive resistance to economic, political, social, and religious powers that be. The way of Jesus brought life amidst the agents and realities of death, just as Navalny does today. How about us?

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Maundy Thursday 2022

Psalm 116:12-13, 17-19
Psalm 116

12What shall I render to the Lord
For all his benefits toward me?
13I will take the cup of salvation,
And call upon the name of the Lord.
17I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And will call upon the name of the Lord.
18I will pay my vows unto the Lord
Now in the presence of all his people.
19In the courts of the Lord's house,
In the midst of you, O Jerusalem.


The Apostle Paul recorded the chronologically earliest account of Jesus' Last Supper.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26

23For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me."

25In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

love one another – Paul G. Hammer

Jesus, how common can you get? Foot washing, bread, wine!
If you're going to be religious, at least use something special.
No, my friend, I came not to perform special religious rites
But to touch the daily life of everyone
With God's love in the commonest of things.

O.K., water, bread, wine.
But isn't foot washing a bit ridiculous?
And what about "this is my body"?
And "this cup is the new covenant in my blood"?

Foot washing is the work of the commonest servant—I came to serve.
But it points beyond to the "washing" of the cross—
God's self-giving service in me to cleanse away estrangement
And heal the distortions in people's lives.

The bread points to nourishment in that same self-giving of God
At work in my body, that is in me.
And the cup points to the new community drawn together and nourished
In my blood, that is in God's total self-giving in my death.

Do you mean that this common stuff of water, bread and wine
Becomes in you the very focus of God's love for me and for the world?
That there is no excuse for my not loving my common neighbor?
Because you have shown the depth of God's love for me?

You've got it!
But it isn't a love for special occasions.
It has to be that daily love that's as common as water, bread and wine!

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Lent 6 Palm Sunday

Lent 6 Palm Sunday
In February, when war in Ukraine began, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York wrote a prayer for the country and its people:

A Prayer for Ukraine

God of peace and justice,
we pray for the people of Ukraine today.
We pray for peace and the laying down of weapons.
We pray for all those who fear for tomorrow,
that your Spirit of comfort would draw near to them.
We pray for those with power over war or peace,
for wisdom, discernment and compassion to guide their decisions.
Above all, we pray for all your precious children, at risk and in fear,
that you would hold and protect them.
We pray in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Amen

Archbishop Justin Welby – Archbishop Stephen Cottrell

Luke 19:28-40

28After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

29When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30saying, "Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt [Matthew and John: "donkey"] that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' just say this, 'The Lord needs it.'" 32So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?" 34They said, "The Lord needs it." 35Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.

36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38saying,

"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!"

39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, order your disciples to stop." 40Jesus answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out."

Palm Sunday

The sixth Sunday in Lent is Palm Sunday with Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the center of religion, of commerce, of imperial Roman colonial rule. Jerusalem, the location of the Temple, the destination of Jesus' trial, conviction, crucifixion, death—and resurrection. In Luke's gospel, Jesus' journey to Jerusalem and the cross is especially incessant; Luke reveals more opposition to Jesus' mission and ministry than the other gospels. Luke presents Jesus on the side of poor, overlooked, and marginalized. From Mary's Magnificat, to John the Baptist by the riverside, and onto Jesus' own preaching, teaching, and acting, Luke's Jesus is strongly prophetic.

This is one of the events in Jesus ministry recorded in all four gospels:

• Mark 11:1-11
• Matthew 21:1-11
• John 12:12-19

We expect hosannas and palm branches on this sixth Sunday in Lent, but read Luke's account again—no palms and not a single hosanna! Just as we interpret scripture (and everything else) for our own context, so did Luke the gentile writing mostly to gentiles. His original readers wouldn't have had much interest or understanding of leafy branches that evoked Succoth / Sukkot booths to represent the minimal yet sufficient shelter of God's provision during the Exodus.

Because fewer and fewer people attend Holy Week services, for the past few decades many churches have celebrated Palm/Passion Sunday, moving too swiftly from Jesus' palms- and praise-surrounded triumphal entry to the walk with the cross, on to the actual place of crucifixion.


Donkeys in the Bible

Many many of Jesus' actions were upside-down versions of what conventional political, religious, and economic authorities – "the establishment" – did. At first it may feel as if Jesus' entering the geographical center of power on a humble donkey subverted the return of the victorious general on a galloping steed. However, there also was a tradition of a military victor riding a donkey in order to present himself as servant of the common people.

Jesus riding a donkey echoes Zechariah 9:9 that some scholars consider a Messianic prediction. Matthew and John both quote Zechariah; Luke almost definitely remembered it.

Other donkeys in the bible? Balaam's talking donkey in Numbers 22:15-35. Joseph's donkey who carried Jesus' pregnant mother Mary into Bethlehem in Luke 2:1-5, and probably into Egypt, as well. Donkeys illustrate the servant God's call for us to live as servant people and as a servant creation.


Some Rocks in Scripture

If Jesus' disciples were silent, stones would shout praises! Rocks would cry out! Luke 19:40

Genesis 28 – Genesis 31: At the place he names Bethel, House of God, Jacob first uses a stone as a pillow for his head and then as a pillar of witness.

The Ten Words or Commandments of the Sinai Covenant engraved in stone

Joshua 24:26-27 Covenant renewal at Shechem and the stone that witnessed the people's resolve to serve YHWH "This stone has heard all the words the Lord has said to us and will be a witness!"

1 Samuel 7:12 Ebenezer, "Stone of Help"

Ezekiel 36:26 Hearts of stone changed into hearts of flesh

Psalm 118:22 From the responsive psalm for today probably is the original "the stone builders rejected has become the cornerstone." Mark 12:10-11 Matthew 21:42 1 Peter 2:7 Compare Isaiah 28:16, "A trustworthy foundation stone or cornerstone in Zion."

1 Peter 2:5 We are living stones being built by God into a temple in order to be holy.

Matthew 4:3 and Luke 4:3 Tempting Jesus to turn stones into bread

Stone at Jesus' tomb (and at Lazarus' grave)

St. Francis of Assisi slept on rocks in order to be close to creation and close to Jesus, our rock of faith.


Palm-Passion Sunday into Easter

"If my disciples were silent, the stones would shout praises!" Luke 19:40

Jesus death and resurrection overthrows the death-dealing, established "powers that be" to liberate the entire cosmos from slavery to sin and death. We still spend much of our time downwind, but the day of the fully accomplished New Creation will happen.

Recent science knows and tells us rocks and stones sing; in fact, "All Creation Sings," per the title of the hymnal. Like the morning stars who sang at the dawn of creation. Like Isaiah's trees that clap their hands because… no more clear-cutting! And Isaiah's seas rejoicing because there's no more pollution!

What other examples from scripture and from your own experience can you describe?

Friday, April 01, 2022

Lent 5C

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 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 suffering,
to become like You in Your death,
My Lord, so with You to live and never die.

Paraphrase of Philippian 3:7-11 by Graham Kendrick


Philippians

Three weeks ago on Lent 2 I blogged about Philippians as the Epistle of Joy! This week on Lent 5 and next week for Lent 6 (Palm/Passion) Sunday, the second reading again is from Philippians. The apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church at Philippi where he was founding pastor and probably a kind of mission developer. Philippians is one of Paul's captivity letters from when he was incarcerated (by humans)—probably in Rome. The scriptures for today and next Sunday reveal Paul captured by and captive to Jesus Christ as a no holds barred prisoner of his Lord!

The church's year of grace has moved into the conclusion of Lent; that means we're seriously getting into some theology of the cross. Theology of the Cross was at the heart of Martin Luther's theology. When we read both the OT and NT carefully, we discover the cross at the heart of God's self-revelation.


Theology of the Cross

In very short:

• Theology of the cross is about God's own self-revelation, especially in Christ crucified. Theology of the cross is about God's often hidden, paradoxical both/and presence in the comment things, people, and situations. All of us have looked back onto a tough, hard, unpleasant situation and in retrospect recognize God was there all the time at that time.

• Theology of glory is about human ideas and imaginings of how a powerful, all-knowing, sovereign God might act. How humans wish God would behave?


Today's Reading

This section of Philippians starts out with Paul's biography. Paul loves to make lists: fruits/gifts of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23; bads of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21… Paul goes on to describe how he wants to become like Jesus Christ. Paul does not use the words disciple or follower or related; for him it's always about being "in Christ," the organic incorporation into Jesus' death and resurrection that God accomplishes in each of us at baptism.

We need to remember that for Paul, about 98% of the time "law" means ceremonial practices such sacrifices, dietary laws, and circumcision. He does not mean the Ten Commandments of the Sinai Covenant or Jesus' Great Commandment capsule summary "Love God and Neighbor as yourself."

Although different translations of Philippians 4:9 read either "faith in Christ" or "faith of Christ," most scholars believe "faith of Christ" – Jesus infinite faithfulness – probably is more accurate and almost definitely Paul's intent.

Our organic incorporation into Jesus Christ? For Paul, the gospel is Death and Resurrection, so baptism into Jesus' death and resurrection re-creates us as gospeled people. That means as individuals, as God's locally gathered people, and as the entire church around the world, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are Good News to our neighbors!

Friday, March 25, 2022

Lent 4C

2 Corinthians 5:18 ministry of reconciliation
2 Corinthians 5:16-21

16From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.

20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Mid-Lent: "Rejoice"

Thursday was the mid-point of Lent. Because every Sunday celebrates Easter, all six Sundays are in but not of Lent; however, the fourth Sunday especially is a time of respite and refreshment. Each Lenten Sunday has a unique name based on the first word of the traditional Latin introit; this fourth Sunday is Laetare, "rejoice." Rather than penitential purple, the liturgical color for vestments and paraments is lighter, brighter rose that we also can use on Advent 3.

Texts for the Laetare introit come from Isaiah 66:10-11 and Psalm 122:1
Isaiah 66:10 "Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her,
all you who love her;
rejoice greatly with her,
all you who mourn over her.
11 For you will nurse and be satisfied
at her comforting breasts;
you will drink deeply
and delight in her overflowing abundance."

Psalm 122:1 I rejoiced when they said to me,
"Let us go to the house of the LORD."

Reflecting

The gospel for today includes Luke 15:11-32, the waiting father, prodigal younger son, resentful older brother parable. In the canonical gospels, only Luke includes this story. The second reading from 2 Corinthians also is about reconciliation, forgiveness, new beginnings, restorations. I love the idea of our being baptized into Christ and becoming a new creation—"from now on"!

The apostle Paul tells us way back when (maybe before Paul got into his high Christology?) people considered Jesus only from a human perspective, "according to the flesh," which isn't bad at all, but it's low-level basic, first rung of the ladder. We know Jesus Christ as fully human and fully divine. Paul parallels looking at Jesus in a more comprehensive way with considering each other more completely. Surprisingly, Paul does not use the word disciple or apostle or follower of Christ; he says we are "in Christ." That organic incorporation into Christ begins with our baptism. Well, it actually began 2,000 years ago. Because we all are "in Christ," we are more than just human, too!


2 Corinthians 5:18, 19, 20

The word Paul uses for reconcile, reconciliation is not so much about making everything even and equal as in settling financial or other accounts; it's closer to a new beginning on common ground, creating a commonwealth with common cause.

The Greek here for "world" – cosmos – means more than simply planet earth we live on; it refers to everyone and everything. All people, plants, animals, revise, oceans, deserts—everyone! everything! all creation!

An ambassador, [envoy, representative] gets sent out of their own country to represent it in a foreign country. God calls us out and sends us out to do the same ministry of reconciliation Jesus did!

Friday, March 18, 2022

Lent 3C

Isaiah 55:1-9

55Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. 4See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. 5See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, who has glorified you.

6Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; 7let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Exiles

This first reading comes from the final chapter in the second main section – "Second Isaiah" – (chapters 40 through 55) of the 66 chapter long book of Isaiah. The author mostly wrote during the Babylonian exile. This section begins with the famous tenor recitative and aria, "Comfort, Ye–Every Valley Shall be Exalted" that opens Handel's Messiah.

By the way, everyone in Judea did not get deported to Babylon, and of those who did, some stayed and helped create good lives for themselves and their neighbors, while others returned to Jerusalem and Judah.

Given the size of the population, we almost necessarily live in a world of economic exchanges where we expect to pay something (legal tender, labor, in-kind) for everything we receive. We don't believe in free lunches; God does believe in free lunches and provides them, too!

For the past month a devastating war between the Russian Federation and the three decades young democracy of Ukraine has raged and been viewed by the entire free world—because democracies don't censor their press. As I blog this, around 3,000,000 people have left Ukraine for neighboring free states of Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary(!) that's technically closed to immigrants, Moldova and others. All nations have been doing everything they can to welcome, accommodate, feed, and help refugees feel as much at home as possible. The European Union has offered refugees from Ukraine the right to stay and work in any member state for up to three years. The United Kingdom has a similar welcoming arrangement. When things are going ok, most people don't and won't imagine receiving or providing free food, but immanent starvation reverses that conviction. Countries of Ukrainian refuge have been fulfilling God's promise through Isaiah of free food and water!


Free Food, God's Thing

If you're thirsty, come to the waters and drink your fill. If you're hungry, come on over and "buy" food that won't cost you anything. The people Isaiah addressed these words of promise to were hungry and thirsty. The war has cut off communication, transportation, and basic supplies, so even citizens of Ukraine who've stayed put no longer can shop for food as usual. Besides, at home or on the road, food and water get used up and need replacing, which humanitarian agencies and welcoming nations have been trying to do.

We don't believe in free lunches; God does! We frequently consider how God created humanity in the Divine Image (Imago Dei) and through the Holy Spirit calls and enables us to be God's hands, feet, presence, and provision wherever we find ourselves. Have you noticed how those locations sometimes feel both accidental and providential? Amidst the current horrific war, individuals in every kind of setting, organizations of every type, and entire countries have been providing free lunches, breakfasts, and dinners.


Material or Spiritual?

It's sometimes hard to know where God’s offer of material goods ends and where God's offer of the spiritual substance of salvation begins. Does this passage refer to material provision or spiritual provision? Yes. Both. And.


Where We Live

This scripture opens with a series of commandments, summons, invitations:

come – buy – eat – listen – eat – delight – incline – come – listen – seek – let

Through Isaiah God asks why we spend money on fake food? Nutrition has become commodified. Even water has become a commodity. The spiritual soul food and the bodily soul food God offers in Isaiah 55 isn't even available for the kinds of money we use for economic exchanges. God has picked up the tab because we could never have paid for it, anyway.

The Lord's Supper reminds us the food and drink God offers us is both spiritual and material. Eating and drinking can be a means of grace—not only exclusively in Holy Communion. Think about it!

In verse 8, Hebrew "thoughts" is closer to our English word designs than it is to cerebral brain processes.

Our thoughts? We expect to pay for everything we receive. God does believe in free lunches and provides them, too! Without asking, we already know Ukrainians still in their country and those who have left absolutely for sure have rejoiced in food and friendship offered and received them as gifts of grace.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Lent 2C

from Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.

Though an host pitched against me, mine heart should not be afraid: though war be raised against me, I will trust in this.

One thing have I desired of the Lord, that I will require, even that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to visit the Lord's Temple.

For in the time of trouble the Lord shall hide me in the Tabernacle: in the secret place of the pavilion, and set me up upon a rock.

I should have fainted, except I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Hope in the Lord: be strong, and he shall comfort thine heart, and trust in the Lord.

Geneva Bible, 1560

Philippians 3:17-4:1

3:
17Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.

4:1Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

Philippi and Philippians

Philippi was a long-time Roman colony on the east-west road between Byzantium and Rome, so like the apostle Paul himself, the people Paul addressed in this letter were Roman citizens yet still colonials. They received a lot of freedom and privilege in return for loyalty to the Roman empire; with their pride and affluence, most of them would have considered Paul's suggestion of humility degrading.

First Church Philippi may have serendipitously started the way Acts 16 tells the story:

Paul and his ministry sidekick Timothy went to Philippi in Macedonia, then down to the river on the sabbath hoping to find an ad hoc synagogue, because if there was no local synagogue, Jews would gather at the river to form a minyan or at least to pray together. They found Purveyor of Purple Cloth Lydia by the riverbank, and eventually baptized Lydia and her entire family. Anti-imperial heavenly citizenship begins with baptism; the Holy Spirit creates the church out of the assembly of the baptized! So Paul was their founding pastor and probably a kind of mission developer. Philippi was the first church on European soil.

Paul wrote this captivity (imprisonment) letter either from Ephesus around 52-56, or more probably from Rome around 61-62. Captivity letter? Other prisoners whose writing helped change lives include Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela. Can you think of less famous persons whose witness and testimony has helped change others during incarceration?


Today's Second Reading

The letter or epistle to the church at Philippi is one of the apostle Paul's seven undisputed letters. In that time and place, attaching a famous person's name to your writing was a common practice that honored them and that would get the actual writer more readers and more credibility. Scholars have determined Paul did not write several NT books that bear his name because they contain grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary, and theology that's not his.

Philippians is The Epistle of Joy and reveals Paul captured by and captive to Jesus Christ! 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


Vocabulary Notes

3:17 is an example of paranaesis, a type of exhortation that's not quite teaching or instruction. "Join in imitating" literally is coming together, "sym"-mimesis in a joint effort. Think of sympathy, feeling together.

Paul says, "Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me … the example you have in us." Almost none of us twenty-first century Westerners ever would consider advising someone to act like us or become like us, though in the early church and in the Greco-Roman world in general, it wasn't quite so shockingly arrogant.

Moreover, there's a mimetic perspective in theology and in cultural anthropology that perceives (many if not most) humans as people who tend to imitate (mimic, echo, replicate) behaviors they see, rather than independently thinking out behaviors and responses as well as anyone can. I'd add we tend to be sponges that easily absorb ideas and trends.

I don't know about my readers' culinary tastes, but the upsurge in kale over the past decade proves that most people are more mimetic/imitative than they are thoughtful. "Don't get me wrong," I enjoy kale cooked into soups and stews, but raw, even finely shredded?!

3:17 those who live according to the example (example = a pattern or a type = a strike that leaves an imprint. Typography. Typewriter. Jesus is the archetype that made an imprint on Paul's life, therefore Paul feels justified asking us to imitate him. "you have in us" = Paul and his followers.

3:17, 18 – "live" is walk, go about—peripatetic

3:20 citizenship – politeuma, note the "poli" root, as in politics, or polity: a thing about the people.

3:21 all things subject to himself, Jesus Christ. That's absolutely everything: people, planets, plants, politics, structures, institutions, etc.


"Our Citizenship is in Heaven"

Paul tells the Roman citizens in the assembly at Philippi their real citizenship is in the earthbound reality of God's Kingdom of Heaven. Think about the process for US citizenship. What is the process for heavenly citizenship? It starts with the Holy Spirit and with baptism, and then we enjoy the benefits and claim the responsibilities of Jesus' lordship, of our heavenly citizenship.

What does it mean to be a colonial? Roman? Spanish? British Empires? How about us and empire? Have we been (to what extent have all of us been) colonized by global conglomerates/multinationals that function as cultural, consumer, and economic empires—ExxonMobil, Apple, BP, Samsung, GE, Philips? Our baptismal identity supersedes our citizenship in the USA, UK, or any other country; our baptismal loyalty to Jesus Christ comes before our allegiance to any entity, organization, or corporation.

Saturday, March 05, 2022

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.

Lent

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, because every Sunday is a festival of resurrection.


Lent 1

Every lectionary year (A, B, and C) for the first Sunday in Lent the gospel reading is Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. 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.


Wilderness

In addition to personal, family, and other struggles everyone experiences now and then, only since winter 2000 as a people we've had a presidential impeachment trial, the start of a once in a century worldwide pandemic with Covid-19, anxious waiting for results of the November 2000 elections… right now memory actually fails me, but many stayed awake on 31 January 2020 to make sure the year 2020 really left. And then? Insurgents stormed and occupied the US Capital on 06 January 2021. (The Day of Epiphany!) Less than a week into the new year! Covid never left. Another presidential impeachment trial. Constant partisan dispute about the validity of the official outcome of the 2020 presidential election. More Covid, despite finally effective vaccines. And now the Russian president and his operatives have invaded Ukraine in what amounts to an undeclared war. It feels as if the world is in a near constant state of wilderness.


Today's Gospel Reading

Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness immediately follow his baptism with the announcement of his identity and calling as The Son of God. Remember, Jesus' explicit wilderness time (somewhat similar to what we might do during a spiritual retreat by ourselves or with others) happened right after confirmation of his divine identity. The Holy Spirit filled Jesus, and then that same Spirit of Life led him into a place more extreme than the wilds alongside the Jordan River.

The late Henri Nouwen points out the devil accosted Jesus with three of the world's greatest temptations; in his rebuttals, Jesus asserted his baptismal identity. Here are Nouwen's ideas followed by my own comments on each one:

• To be relevant: Turn these stones into bread? Luke 4:3

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!

• To be powerful: Have authority over all the kingdoms of the world? Luke 4:6-7

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

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

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.


Where We Live: Baptismal Identity

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, and responding with grace to the world around us. Traditionally Lent has been a time of preparation for baptism 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 live out our baptismal identity in witness and service, and in the power of the Spirit sends us filled with the Spirit into the world to be the gospel, to live as good news to everyone everywhere.

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 embodied the substance and meaning of scripture.

How about us? What about us? Martin Luther reminds us God has redeemed us from the "unholy trinity" of sin, death, and the devil. What scriptures, prayers, hymns, do we rely on to reclaim our baptismal identity when the going gets rough and tough? Maybe especially over the past couple of years? 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?


A Prayer for Ukraine

May God grant the Ukrainian people the fortitude to resist and reverse any onslaught from Russia.
May the defeat of Putin's army bring about a rebirth of freedom for the Russian people.

May Russia and its neighbors live together in amity through democracy.
May the hope of the Rosh Hashanah liturgy ring throughout the land—

May all evil dissipate like smoke, for the removal of tyranny ushers in the overall reign of God.

Peace for all.
Amen.

This prayer for Ukraine, written by Reuven Kimelman, Brandeis University professor of classical rabbinic literature, is inspired by the liturgy of Rosh Hashanah. That liturgy prays for recognizing the one God and the unity of humanity through the elimination of tyranny. It takes its cue from the biblical verse, “When God is acknowledged sovereign over all the earth, God will be one and God's name one.” Zachariah, 14:9

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Transfiguration C 2022

Transfiguration Listen to Him
Praying for Ukraine

Excerpts from a shared statement released by the ELCA on Thursday 24 February. Signatories are mostly national leaders of Christian church bodies in the USA and Canada; Basharat Saleem represents the Islamic Society of NA, Tarunjit Singh Butalia from Religions for Peace USA is Sikh, making this an interfaith declaration.

"All our religious traditions call us to pray and work for peace. We join our voices and hands together. We must open our eyes to those who are suffering, and we cannot remain indifferent to the injustice this conflict has brought on the people of Ukraine and may bring on people of neighboring countries.

"Join us as we pray:

"Oh Divine, most mighty, most merciful, our sacred stories tell us that you help and save your people. You are the fortress: may there be no more war. You are the harvest: may there be no more hunger. You are the light: may no one die alone or in despair. Oh Divine, most majestic, most motherly, grant us your life. Amen."

Interfaith Call to Peace for Ukraine
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.

Transfigure=to change shape // Transfiguration=change of shape

Today the Epiphany segment of green and growing Ordinary Time concludes. 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 celebrates 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 so important they celebrate it for 8 days! Actually…some churches celebrate it twice.


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 any place off their feet if it isn't one of peace.
• Charges 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 prediction—suffer, die, be buried, raised.
• Jesus calls us to bear his cross, to lose our lives in order to save our lives.
• And now, Jesus transfigured on the mountain top!

Backtracking: read Exodus 34:29-35

Jesus' appearance becomes transformed not simply because he experiences God's glory like Moses did, but because he is the source of divine glory.


More Notes

Just as at Jesus' Baptism, at Transfiguration we experience a Trinitarian theophany: manifestation, showing forth, revelation of all three persons of the trinity. This is the end of the Epiphany season that emphasizes Jesus as light for all the world, not only for God's original people. The "Theo" prefix is God; remember other words that include "phan"? Epiphany, Tiffany, Fantasy. Any other similar words?

"About eight days" could refer to approximately one week, or it could refer to the 8th day of the New Creation. In their parallel passages, Mark and Matthew tell us 6 days, which also is about one week. In scripture mountains are places of special revelation. Both Moses [Exodus 20:1-17] and Elijah [1 Kings 19:12] received revelation on mountains. Jesus' crucifixion on Mount Calvary is the ultimate mountaintop revelation. As often happens in Luke's gospel, Jesus was praying when this revelation happened. Compare Jesus' baptism.

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 redemption, new liberation from war, violence, hatred, greed, a new way of living together in peace.

They'd just been celebrating the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles or Tents when people remembered and celebrated God's precarious protection during their wilderness wanderings (Leviticus 23:39-43), so sons of Zebedee Peter, James, and John had the idea of huts or little booths. In Hebrew cosmology, the cloud of the Shekinah was a frequent feminine image for the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity.

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


Listen to Jesus!

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." So how about us?