Saturday, June 25, 2022

Pentecost 3C

Galatians 5:1, 13-18; 22-25

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

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

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

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

Ordinary Time

In this green and growing Season of the Spirit, Time of the Church as we count Sundays after the Day of Pentecost, the church lives in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost.


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

The community at Galatia was the first ethnic church, in the sense of geography and culture; they also were ethnos as gentiles! The words Galatia, Gaulle, Gaelic, Celt, Celtic all come from the same root.

• Galatians is the Epistle of Freedom.
• Galatians is Reformation Central, vitally important to Martin Luther's theology.
• This passage brings us a typical Reformation contrast and dichotomy between law and gospel.

Galatians includes:

• Paul's only birth narrative: "In the fullness of time God sent his son, born of a woman, born under the law." Galatians 4:4
• Neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free, for all are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28 – last week! The ground is level at the foot of the cross. But this doesn't obliterate distinctions and wonders of each person's individual gifts and contributions.
• A pair of famous Pauline lists—works of the flesh and fruits of the Spirit.

This Week

God gifted Israel the commandments or ten words – decalogue – after they'd been freed from slavery in Egypt, yet still were on their way to the place where they'd settle to live together and amongst people who had other gods and other agendas. The commandments outline the limits and boundaries of our freedoms. We humans often need incentives and reminders; as we've realized during Covid, my mask and my vaccination protects me and protects you, and I hope you'll be thoughtful, considerate – and loving – enough to reciprocate. Jesus summed up and condensed ten commands into just two: love God; love your neighbor as you love yourself.

In Galatians, Paul reminds us "Christ has set us free" [from slavery to sin and self] and in an echo of the Ten Words of the Sinai Covenant, continues to describe how we now are free to love our neighbors, who in turn are free to love us. In Paul's words, "Through [God's agape] love become slaves to one another!" The New Testament variously uses Greek words that translate into servant or slave in English; here it's doulos or slave rather than diakonos or servant (the source of our word and ministry of deacon). Bond service and chattel slavery were common in the Ancient Near East, which likely is the reason Paul draws this parallel. However, maybe especially a week after Juneteenth's celebration of emancipation, we need to realize this servitude or enslavement is our wiling response to God's gracious love and not coerced. Jesus outlines two commandments; note how Paul mentions only one—love neighbor as self.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control all are fruits of God's Spirit of Holiness and Life. You know how fruit grows on a branch or vine or tree that's rooted in the ground? The entire organism receives nutrients from the earth, water, sunlight, and restful night. Every kind of fruit starts small, gradually gets bigger and riper, finally is ready to pick and enjoy. Can that be a model for qualities and characteristics the Holy Spirit slowly grows in us so we can gift others?

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!


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.


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?