Friday, June 30, 2023

Pentecost 5A

Psalm 89:1-2
I will sing of the lovingkindness
of the Lord forever!
God's faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.
Psalm 89:1-2

Matthew 10:40-42

40 "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward."

Logically and scripturally, I'm moving beyond the lectionary text.


Today's reading nicely parallels and reinforces Jesus' well-known counsel to "shake the dust from your feet" and simply leave if people you offer the gospel to don't welcome you. Like Matthew 12:46-50 that I mentioned last week, it's also surprising that neither of those shows up in any lectionary year.

• Matthew 10:7-14
• Luke 9:1-5

Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors. A Welcome Table. We're very aware of God's call for us to welcome others, but this passage is something different. It's about getting out there and becoming a guest that others welcome.

"Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me." Matthew 10:40

In that time and place, emissaries, envoys, ambassadors (sometimes a house-servant) represented and carried with them the full authority of the person who sent them. It was similar to our electing government officials to serve in our stead in congress, in the state legislature, in city hall. Our vote gives them authority to represent us even to the extent of speaking and acting for us. Members elect church officers to represent them on session, council, vestry, or consistory. In a similar way we represent Jesus. Jesus represents God.

Prophet, Righteous, Little Ones

• Prophets speak God's word of hope and promise for a different future; the end of the old, the beginning of the new, and call people back to the freedom of keeping the commandments. A prophet speaks for God; that includes us in our baptismal roles of prophet (speaker of God's word), priest (mediator between earth and heaven), and sovereign (caretaker of creation).

• Righteous people work for justice, integrity, and restoration of relationships. Doesn't that include us?

• Little ones are people with any kind of need; at various times that includes everyone. The late gourmet chef and Episcopal priest Robert Farrar Capon insisted God saves only the last, the lost, the little, and the least.

"Reward" here is earned wages, a payment you're entitled to, and not a gift of grace.

This Week

Matthew's gospel is concerned about fulfilling Old Testament prophecies and predictions. Matthew emphasizes Jesus as the freedom-giving New Moses whose teaching illuminates and expands on the Sinai Covenant. Welcome and hospitality are God's most essential charge.

Exodus 23:9 "You shall not oppress a stranger (foreigner, sojourner, alien), for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers (aliens, sojourners) in the land of Egypt."

Leviticus 19:34 carries it a little further: "The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you (native-born, of the same country), and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."

Last week we discussed family configurations along with Jesus' "whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me." Matthew 10:38

Where We Live

"And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat..." Exodus 25:22a

Martin Luther tells us the cross of Calvary is God's Mercy Seat or Gnadenstuhl—God's throne of grace and mercy where God meets us where we are, how we are. From the Mercy Seat God rains boundless mercies and offers resurrection hope.

Today's reading is primarily about others welcoming us, though ideally welcome becomes reciprocal. Is looking to the neighbor's needs rather than insisting on our own not the way of the cross? Do we dare risk representing Jesus who represents God by putting aside our druthers to shower solace, mercy, friendship, love, and inclusion on all comers?

Neighborology—the word about the neighbor—is central to scripture. Neighborology is loving welcome in action. The scripture scholar asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" and Jesus replied, "A guy was going down to Jericho..."

It's important – literally "has import" – to welcome even in small, seemingly insignificant ways, because little incidents and mini-moments add up to more than the sum of the parts as they contribute to healing and wholeness. Is there an open place at your table, on your porch or veranda, in the sandwich shop or boba spot, beside your pool?

Now that covid is waning (some), have you gotten out there to become a guest that others welcome? Who has been a neighbor to you? How have you been a neighbor? Who has shown God's mercy to you? To whom have you offered grace? What small happenings have fueled you along the way and filled others with resurrection hope?
Leviticus 19:34
But the stranger that dwelleth with you
shall be unto you as one born among you,
and though shalt love him as thyself;
for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt:
I am the Lord your God.
Leviticus 19:34

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Pentecost 4A

Romans 6:5
Because we have been united with Christ in a death like his,
we certainly will be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Romans 6:5

Matthew 10:34-39

34 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and one's foes will be members of one's own household.

37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Romans 6:3-5

3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.


For today the lectionary pairs the baptismal theology of Romans 6 with Jesus' warning about following him and the cost of discipleship related to family members. Matthew 10:38 is the first "cross" reference in Matthew's gospel, and it's about the disciples, not about Jesus!

Jesus knew anyone at odds with the Roman occupation government was at high risk for crucifixion; most likely Jesus started anticipating his own crucifixion even earlier than we read about in the gospel narratives. Although this refers to literal crucifixion, it's no stretch also to interpret it as putting to death our own desires, preferences, lifestyles that clash, interfere with, or even negate God's call to us. As we hear Paul's famous baptismal passage from Romans 6, we remember the cross did kill Jesus, but it didn't succeed in keeping him dead.

What social scientists refer to as the nuclear family (and that we still occasionally imagine almost as a given into the twenty-first century) is not a fixture in scripture, though we hear about parents, children, spouses, and in-laws. Jesus instead describes a new family of people who follow him. Biological heredity comes into the mix, but more than anything, this new family is by Jesus' blood, by baptismal water and word.

Reborn into a New Family

Saint Paul asks if we do not know? In Christ our primary familial kinship and identity is under the headship of the crucified and risen One. It's truly a gift to be the sibling, friend, parent, niece, or cousin of [insert name here], wonderful to live as a citizen or resident of the USA, of Italy, of any country with the right to vote, free markets, the rule of law, and a free press, but those identities are not primary.

Our second birth in baptism fully unites us with Jesus Christ – our "elder brother" – and with God's people across the eons. Baptism reunites us with planet earth, maybe the most basic and essential kinship of all.

Matthew 12:46-50

• These verses from Matthew 12 come a couple of chapters after today's. According to the scripture index on textweek, the lectionary doesn't ever schedule them. Interesting!
46 While Jesus was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, "Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you." 48 But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?' 49 And pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Pentecost 3A

Exodus 19 word
The people all answered together,
"All the words the Lord has spoken
we will do."
Exodus 19:8

Exodus 19:1-8

1 On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain.

3 Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites:
4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, 6 but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites."

7 So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8 The people all answered as one: "Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do." Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.

Exodus So Far

The second book of the Pentateuch, Exodus chronicles the Israelites making their way out of slavery in Egypt—"I have come down to deliver my people from the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites… (Exodus 3:8). Although the exodus spanned about forty years or two generations, it's astonishing to realize that by the time of today's scripture:

• The sea had drowned Pharaoh's minions as they pursued the Israelites who'd walked across a dry seabed (Exodus 14);
• Israel had taken time to remember, retell, rejoice, and dance (Exodus 15);
• Moses sweetened the bitter water at Marah with a tree branch (Exodus 15).
• After they left Elim with its (refreshing!) twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, in the next wilderness of Sin – a place name probably related to Sinai – God fed them with manna and quail, and they kept Shabbat (Exodus 16).
• Thirsty again at Rephidim! At God's command, Moses' staff brought water from the rock. Israel defeated Amalek's army (Exodus 17).
• At the advice of his father-in law-Jethro, Moses chose helpers to assist in resolving community disputes (Exodus 18).

Doing the Word

As our current chapter starts, they'd arrived at Sinai on the third new moon, or two lunar months to the day after they'd left Egypt. Only a couple of months, and did I mention how surprising it is to know everything they'd already experienced?

After those demonstrations of God's mercy, presence, and provision, God summoned Moses and asked Moses to remind the people what God had done to protect, save, and sustain them. God then includes a therefore: because this God is trustworthy, won't you obey me and keep covenant with me? Because if you do, then you will belong to me in a unique way out of all the people on earth.

Exodus 19:5 calls God's people a "treasured possession." The Hebrew segullah suggests extreme worth and something monetarily or emotionally precious. The King James Version calls God's people peculiar; the root of the word tells us they are distinguished, special, or select—God's wealth, God's bounty.

God's love is unconditional, but God's protection and the fulfillment of God's promises often require human obedience. Two months out from imperial slavery, this was the beginning of forty years of radically trust in God.

Israel announced they would do everything God had spoken. Later on, across three millennia, at home and in diaspora, Israel retold and reenacted the history of God's deliverance from death – the Passover – and God's annihilation of Israel's enemies, the Egyptians. Israel's testimony in words and actions grounded them in the past with hope for God's future.

In the chapter after today's we find the Ten Words or Decalogue that outline how the people can keep their freedom—what Hebrew Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann calls God's Working Papers for living together in community: for Israel's, and for ours, as well. You also can find the Ten Commandments of the Sinai Covenant in Deuteronomy 5:5-21. They clarify that keeping covenant with God also means to be there for each other.

Where We Live

Israel learned this God was worthy of obedience, so they received the commandments as a gift of grace rather than as random untethered demands. Moses announced, "these are the words" and the people agreed, "we will do the words." Because they knew God's acts of deliverance, the people knew obeying God would lead to life.

During forty years of being manna-fed in the desert, under Moses' leadership and Yahweh's Lordship, Israel experienced divine distributive justice of enough for everyone and too much for no one, as God rained "Bread from Heaven" (Exodus 16:4). Wherever they were – at home and in diaspora – Israel recited and reenacted their experiences of deliverance from death into life and vanquished enemies.

How has God shown mercy, love, and protection in our lives as individuals and in the communities we identify with? What events have lead us to trust God into the future? What's our testimony in words and actions?

Let's update Israel's to our own "we have seen – therefore – we shall do." Because we have experienced Jesus crucified, dead, risen, and ascended, we know keeping covenant with God and with one another will lead to life for all creation.

Via John 6:31-35, Jesus calls himself the real manna from heaven, and promises anyone who eats that manna, that "Bread of Heaven," never will be hungry, will have eternal life! At the table of grace we Christians retell and reenact our deliverance from death to life. In the Lord's Supper, we know living manna blessed and broken and given to us. As manna did for the Israelites in the journey to freedom and responsibility, eucharistic manna sustains us and our ministries for the world and in the world.

Jesus the living Word of God is our manna and the entire world's manna. Along with the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 30:11), Paul insists, "the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so you can do it." (Romans 10:4)

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Pentecost 2A

I will follow you wherever you go
I will follow you
wherever you go
I will follow you

Genesis 12:1-9

1 Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother's son Lot and all the possessions that they had gathered and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran, and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan.

When they had come to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak [terebinth] of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So Abram built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

8 From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east, and there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. 9 And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.

Matthew 9:9-13

9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax-collection station, and he said to him, "Follow me." And Matthew got up and followed Jesus.

10 And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with Jesus and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" 12 But when Jesus heard this, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous but sinners."

Ordinary Time

We've reached the half-year long stretch of (green, growing, eventually browning into autumn and winter) Ordinary Time when we especially explore God's call on our lives as individuals, as church communities, and as both of those out in the larger world. Similar to Jesus of Nazareth, we express much of God's claim on our lives in ways we serve or minister to others. It often feels easy and safe to focus on people and causes outside the doors of our homes, churches, and workplaces, but when we discern what's next for us, it's important first to take care of persons and concerns in our immediate vicinity.

From Acts 6:1-6, we learn the newly called and sent church first ordained (not elders—for formal, structured leadership; not ministers of word and sacrament—to officiate at font and table, to proclaim God's words of grace) deacons—bearers of towel and basin, as Jesus modeled in John 13:4-5. The servant class of deacons would help grow the church into the image of the servant God. Society in general then would perceive the nascent church as a world-facing servant people (and that it was), but doesn't God first call us to attend to the who and the what we easily can reach out and touch?

We need to take care of persons and concerns in our immediate vicinity. How about caring for ourselves, our most important relationship next to our relationship to God? An emphasis on mental and emotional wellness has been a bright part of the fallout from Covid. Think about it!

Abraham and Matthew

We frequently reflect upon God calling, charging, and "after the fact" qualifying people for particular ministries, as in "God equips the called." It's well known that Moses, David, Amos, and others in the Hebrew scriptures didn't start out with stellar résumés. With their "blue collar" backgrounds, the original twelve are another major example of people who turned the world upside down in the power of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost.

For Martin Luther and the sixteenth century Reformers, God's call and Abram's response early in the book of Genesis or Beginnings was the standard for our own journeys of trust. Saul/Paul of Tarsus (with his former life spent persecuting Christians, Paul was one of God's surprising call stories) explains in Romans 4:3-5, because Abram "believed" (trusted, had faith in, essentially took God at God's word) God considered Abram righteous, his life balanced in God's accounting ledger. Because of this, Isaiah 41:8 calls Abraham a friend or lover of God, as does Jesus' brother in James 2:23.

It's not about standing up during worship to publicly proclaim, "I believe in God, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth – We believe in one God, the Father, the almighty…" although doctrinal teachings are important. It's about taking God at God's word and therefore doing what God asks us to do.

Scripture tells us Abram, later renamed Abraham, set out for the land God promised him, but it doesn't provide details of questions or equivocations Abram may have had. It also looks as if Abram had a sizable retinue and considerable wealth, so he could afford that aspect of venturing toward a place unknown to him.

No one really knows if Matthew the tax collector mostly wrote down the gospel that bears his name, but still, today's gospel reading from Matthew is another famous example of God's occasionally surprising call and claim on people's lives. As Matthew sat as his place of employment as a tax collector for the occupying Roman empire, Jesus' instincts prompted him to call Matthew to follow him, and Matthew did. Again we don't have any inbetween information.

Where We Live

This year we've also looked at the call – and response – stories of prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. During the Great Fifty Days of Easter we heard from the Acts of the [Original] Apostles.

But God's calls and charges aren't always astonishing. Only looking at ministries inside the church, someone with expertise in accounting being called as church treasurer. A skilled soprano (formally trained or not) serving as choir section leader. A music lover who truly can't carry a tune or whose schedule doesn't allow them to attend rehearsals serving as choir librarian.

As you follow Jesus during the ripening days of summer, as autumn arrives with programming that helps us imagine and create life beyond many of the confines Covid required, what is God calling you to do? What have you done in previous years or previous lives that you'd love to revive? What do you see others doing that you might like to try, either because you have gifts and experience in that field or because you'd love to reach out, risk, and find out you're really good at that endeavor or you're actually not?

Saturday, June 03, 2023

Trinity Sunday 2023

cool birds
cool fish
The birds of the heavens
and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.
Psalm 8:8
Psalm 8

1 O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
4 what are humans that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?

5 Yet you have made them a little lower than the gods
and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,

7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

9 O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Trinity Sunday

How does God self-reveal? How do we meet God? How do we know God?

Trinity Sunday is the octave of Pentecost and celebrates a doctrine or teaching rather than a time-and-place event. The church long has celebrated important days for eight days. (Think of an octave on a keyboard.) Scripture strongly implies God as triune or three-in-one / one-in-three, but never uses the word "trinity." In fact, the church didn't articulate the doctrine or teaching of God as triune until 325A.D. at the Council of Nicaea that gave us the Nicene or Constantinopolitan Creed.

You've probably heard the Trinity described in ways similar to ice, water, vapor; son, friend, brother? Those end up with the heresy of modalism with its claim God manifests in different ways at different times, yet they still provide some idea of the variety of roles the triune God rocks.

Although the Trinity is that copout word "mystery," human brains still try to describe it, and that's not at all negative. Teachers usually have students write about almost everything because if you can write about a concept, you understand it. Again, that's fine in a casual sense, but on Trinity Sunday we revel in the presence of the transcendent Holy Other and the immanent Sacred. Trinity and any Sunday worship is an occasion to celebrate God in song and sacrament, for the proclamation to remind us of God's glory, compassion, righteousness and love. Trinity-related God talk can happen in bible study, in seminary classrooms and lunchrooms.

In our readings this year we've had at least two explicit theophanies or revelations of the Trinity: the Baptism of Jesus and the Transfiguration.


How does God self-reveal? How do we meet God? How do we know God?

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

Instead of an analogy that never approaches the essence of the godhead, early church fathers and mothers talked about the dance or the perichoresis of the Trinity. "Peri" refers to in the vicinity of, around, nearby–perimeter, peripatetic, pericope (a scripture or other literary passage cut out from its surroundings). "Choresis" has the same root as dance-related choreography.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit interact with each other, collaborate, do life together so wonderfully we also want to dance in response! Maybe more than anything, the trinity models our interactive and cooperative lifestyles and ministries. The church is the Image of the Trinity.


We baptize using water accompanied by the words Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Baptism literally immerses us into Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, into the trinitarian nature of God as Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier.

Jesus' great commission in Matthew 28:19 is the only occurrence of this baptismal formula in the bible, yet it was one of many later additions to the original text. The early church baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus, Jesus the Savior, or similar words. The first recorded mention of the Trinitarian baptismal formula was in the late fourth century!

Trinitarian Formulas

Baptism engulfs us in God as Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier, but all three persons of the godhead create. All three redeem and liberate. All of them sanctify and sustain.

For occasions other than baptism, trinitarian formulas include:

• Earth-maker – Pain-bearer – Life-giver A New Zealand Prayer Book
• Source – Word – Spirit
• Abba – Christ – Holy Spirit

The Church as the Image of the Trinity

How goes God self-reveal? How do we meet God? How does the world meet God? How does the world know God?

Jesus charged and trusted his followers – the church – to proclaim the gospel in word and action, to baptize, to remember him by breaking the bread of life and offering the cup of salvation. We reveal good news to the world when we live as sacraments that mediate between earth and heaven. We take our cues and clues from the perichoresis of the Trinity, and not from the consumer driven programmatic excesses of the world. Does the world meet God through us? Does the world know God because of us?

The grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the companionship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. 2 Corinthians 13:14