Sunday, 15 September 2019

The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost ----- 15 September 2019

Luke 15:1-10
1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." 3 So he told them this parable: 4 "Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, "Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8 "Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, "Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

"This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."
·       It’s often said that we are known by the company we keep. This would hold for Jesus as well. The scribes and Pharisees were grumbling because a rabbi, a teacher, was often in the company of those they felt were not worthy of the rabbi’s attention. So they grumbled: "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." They wanted him to spend his time with the “good” people, the “right” people, the “worthy” people… with them.
·       It is possible that these folks were concerned about Jesus reputation and how the tax collectors and sinners might destroy it. They also might have been concerned that he wasn’t doing what he should have, that is, spending time with the “right” people, the “righteous” people, those who had not sinned, since that was what a proper rabbi should do: stick with the proper people (where he could be controlled?).
·       In the face of this, Jesus relates three parables. The so-called Prodigal Son is our Gospel for next week. In the first two parable, the ones we hear today, the meaning might be easy to catch. How it would be received by the “sinners” and the “righteous” would be quite different.
·       In the first parable, a shepherd has 100 sheep and one gets lost. Now I have a degree in Business Management and to me, 1% wastage written off isn’t that bad. However this is not a lesson in business or shepherding. It is a lesson in the Kingdom of God.
·       The one lost one is really lost. If we consider the terrain of Judea (the wilderness), the chances are slim to none of finding that one sheep. There are lots of places to hide or to get caught in. There are also wolves, hyenas, even leopards around and they’d be looking for just such a lost sheep. But as I said, this is not a story of actual shepherding. The parable’s shepherd is as concerned for all the other sheep as he is for the lost one; he just HAS to find the lost one… even if it cost him his life.
·       In the second parable, the woman has lost one of her ten silver coins and proceeds to turn the house upside down to find it.
·       The lost coin – a Greek coin called a drachma – was possibly a day or a half day’s pay for a worker of the time. (In that time, it had the same purchasing power as about $50 today.) Again, she doesn’t wait for the coin to turn up and she doesn’t write off the 10% loss. She aggressively cleans until she finds it… and then throws a party.
·       Really now, people just don’t act like that.
·       But God does. God seeks out the lost sheep and the lost coin. For the tax collectors and sinners, that must have been such good news! For them to hear that they were cared for that much, that their apparent sin did not hinder the Lord of All Creation from loving them would be such a freeing message.
·       They were made in the image of God and God would recovery God’s image in the ones so many considered lost. The “Lost” hear the parables with joy; however, the Pharisees might hear the message with annoyance since their “righteousness” would be challenged.
·       There is a lack of understanding here. The so-called sinners might have felt that no grace would reach them, while the so-called righteous might have felt that no grace was needed. Yet they – and we - all need the same grace (and the same amount if it could be measured) to be saved.
·       Paul wrote to Timothy: the saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. We can’t really comment on Paul’s self-understanding, but the statement that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners is good news to us! Rather than spending time beating ourselves up for our past or spending time wondering why we confess and ask forgiveness since “none of us really sin” as one member of another congregation once said to me, we can rejoice in the grace of salvation. Every… last… one… of us… no matter whom we welcome and eat with.
the saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost ---- 8 September 2019

Philemon 1:1-21
1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and co-worker, 2 to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God 5 because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus. 6 I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. 7 I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother. 8 For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, 9 yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love—and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. 10 I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. 12 I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. 13 I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. 15 Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
{I had written a sermon based on the Gospel of the day - Luke 14:25-33 "So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions." However, when the congregation member reading the Letter to Philemon was speaking, I realized that so little is known about this letter and it speaks to our present so much, I decided to throw out my original sermon and speak "off-the-cuff" on Philemon. I asked the people which they wanted to hear and those who expressed an opinion said "Philemon!" I have no notes so I'm doing bullet points as much as I can remember.}
  • Paul is writing to a Christian named Philemon, a man of some means who appears to have a Christian congregation meeting at his house. Paul has something that "belongs" to Philemon - his run-away slave, Onesimus. Paul make a play on words, calling Onesimus "useful" after being "useless", because the word for 'useful' in the Greek of the time is "Onesimus."
  •  Slavery at the time was not what we conceive of slavery in our time. Slaves then could make money, buy their freedom, and even own slaves while being slaves themselves. Paul is sending Onesimus back to Philemon with the hope that Philemon will welcome him back into his household. It appears that Paul is not questioning the existence of slavery, something we can't really understand in our time. Yet there it is.
  • Paul puts a sort of guilt trip on Philemon - "If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self." (Paul often wrote a 'post-script' to his letters in his own hand, the rest of it being written by another.)
  • Paul insists that Philemon no longer treat Onesimus as merely a slave, a tool, a thing, but treat him as a brother in Christ. He is not a tool or an object for Philemon's comfort or profit; he is a human being and now a brother in Jesus Christ. Their whole relationship has changed! We don't know what became of either Philemon or Onesimus, but we can hope that things changed for both of them.
  • We know of slavery from our history studies. We know that many enslaved people from the United States made their way to Canada by way of what was called "the Underground Railroad." A slave could still be hunted down in the non-slave states in the north of the USA, but once they reached Canada, a part of the British Empire, they were free. Britain had outlawed slavery and those folks were beyond the legal reach of the slave hunters. 
  • Sad to say, many believe that there are more slaves living in the world now than there has ever been in history. Many places in Asia and Africa have slave populations, no matter what they might be called.
  • North America and Canada are not exempt. There are slaves here, especially here in south-western Ontario. The "401 Corridor" from Windsor to Toronto is know as a hot-bed of human trafficking - young women and young men trapped into lives of prostitution. Slavery is very much alive.
  • Paul asked Philemon to see Onesimus as a brother. In that, he asked Philemon to see his slave as a human being, not an animal, not a tool, not a source of income or comfort or work, but a human being, like him. Their common faith would draw them closer still.
  • So it is in our day. Even though we might not make a dent in the human trafficking that is taking place, if we treat everyone around us as a human being, no matter what their religion, race, or whatever, we are fighting the attitudes that lead to the horrors of slavery.
  • Many among you here today may have worked in almost slavery conditions; you know all about this. There are only humans around us and Jesus died (and rose) for each and every one of them.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost ---- 1 September 2018

Luke 14:1, 7-14
1 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

7 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. 8 "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; 9 and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, "Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, "Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." 12 He said also to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
·       Jesus sure seems to be invited to a lot of dinner parties! Today we hear the account of him going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees for a Sabbath day meal. In some verses left out of today’s reading, Jesus heals a man suffering from what’s called “dropsy” which is a swelling of the limbs. He asks if it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath and the only response is silence. So Jesus heals the man after noting that saving a child or an ox who has fallen into a well is permissible on the Sabbath… even though such an action might be considered work.
·       Jesus then notices the scuffle to get to the best seats at the table and remarks that this is not the real way to get ahead. He goes on to tell the host and all those listening that the next party should be thrown for the poor and the suffering, the handicapped and the disabled, who cannot reciprocate. The reward will not be in status and reputation but in blessing.
·       After this, the story takes another twist, which might be best left for another time. What we have before us is still a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. Jesus once again turns everything on its ear and goes against the common wisdom as well as the common standards of behavior.
·       He lays aside the common understanding of the Law to heal a man who suffers. He laughs (maybe not aloud) at the striving of the guests to grab the most prestigious seats. He turns over the expectations about who should be at the banquet.
·       These are all glimpses of the Kingdom that is coming. Expectations and interpretations of the Law will not stop the healing that is needed. The struggle for status and position will be less than important and will be known for the false concern that it is. Who will be invited to the great banquet, who will attend that banquet, and why the invitation went out will set the whole world topsy-turvy.
·       This whole thing might not be to everyone’s liking. It could disrupt our well-ordered lives and mess with our self-image and our seating charts. We are constantly on a journey, a pilgrimage toward the Kingdom, and I, for one, know I’m not there yet. Yet this is a preview of the Kingdom and we will have to adapt ourselves.
·       There is a lesson in humility here with Jesus noticing the striving of the guests to choose the places of honour. The lesson is not to think less of ourselves, but to think of ourselves less, as C.S. Lewis wrote. The reality is this: Humility is not hating who you are, but being who you are. Humility is an exercise in truth telling and gratitude. If we are good at something, it would be false humililty to deny that. If we're not so good at something, we can apply the saying "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly." If it's worth doing, do it any way you can! 
    God made us what we are, often with blemishes and all. What we’ve done with that gift is something to be decided at some other time. What we are and what we might have made of ourselves does not hinder the coming of the Kingdom. It’s on the way and maybe –like good, experience farmers- we can smell it coming. (My father and I could "smell" snow when it was on the way - which amazed my wife!)
·       I mentioned both “truth-telling” and “gratitude.” Recognition of the truth leads us to see that the Kingdom and all grace is a gift and a gift that we do not deserve. Martin Luther’s last known words are said to have been (here translated) “We are beggars. This is true.” Grace and the Kingdom of God are given, not bought or achieved, let alone deserved. This is the truth. Gratitude come in when we realize that, just like Luther, we are beggars and the Kingdom is ours, bought, paid for, and given in the blood of Jesus… and it will not be taken from us. We know where our seats are, and all the seats at the table of God’s own banquet are the right ones.
·       When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. "… For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

Sunday, 25 August 2019

The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost ---- 25 August 2019

(Now that I've returned from my holiday...)

Isaiah 58:9b-14
9b If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 11 The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. 12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in. 13 If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; 14 then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Luke 13:10-17
10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment." 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day." 15 But the Lord answered him and said, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?" 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment."
·       Jesus always seems to be getting himself in trouble with people in authority, whether it is the Scribes and Pharisees, the leadership of a synagogue, or ultimately the Romans and their Empire. He challenges all these different people over their ideas of Law of Moses, its interpretation, and finally what life is to be about.
·       The pivot of the story today is the woman who had been stooped over for eighteen years. Jesus lays the blame on a painful bondage to the devil, which could be a way of saying that what she suffered from was not according to God’s will. She herself is not possessed, but she has surely suffered a tragic brokenness.
·       When he heals her – on the Sabbath- the synagogue leader takes him to task for working on the Sabbath (although oddly he talks to the crowd and not to Jesus.) To the leader of the synagogue, the holiness of the Sabbath consists of a legal stricture against “work” and not the holy work of the liberation and healing of one of God’s children from what the person has been suffering… for 18 years (which is 936 Sabbaths if you’re keeping count.) In the face of this criticism, Jesus notes that work has always been done on the Sabbath, since farm animals can’t feed themselves and rely on their people to feed and water them, even on the Sabbath.
·       So Jesus healed on the Sabbath. So Jesus was criticized for doing this. So Jesus was seen as a person who did not keep the Law.
·       This healing was part of Jesus’ mission to proclaim the Kingdom of God in word and deed. Even the prophet Isaiah said it: If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day… then you shall take delight in the Lord… Where does God’s interest and concern lie? It is in the healing of God’s people and their welfare. Once again, the prophet tells us this: If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted…
·       I find it interesting that Jesus does not “spiritualize” this healing. He doesn’t say it is part of a heavenly future for the woman or for any who heard him. The healing is of the body and it takes place in the woman’s here- and-now. It is a healing of the whole person and a tangible sign of the Kingdom of God present to those people. It is not some hint of a “better place” or of a heaven where all will be made right. It doesn’t make a separation of body and spirit with the spirit seemingly more important. When Jesus heals, he heals the entire person.
·       It is the entire person, and through that focus, the entire world that Jesus is intent on healing. That has been and continues to be his mission. That is our mission as well, because we are his disciples. We may not be able to heal with a touch, but we can touch people’s lives with our words and our deeds. Through that, we too have the Kingdom as our mission as well.
And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?

Sunday, 21 July 2019

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost ---- 21 July 2019

Luke 10:38-42
38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." 41 But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."

there is need of only one thing.
·       I’d like to ask you a question: Whose head is on the front of the 25 cent coin? (the Queen) And what is on the other side? (a caribou)
·       This holds for all the coins minted here in Canada; the Queen’s profile is on the front and something else – a caribou, a beaver, a ship, a loon, a polar bear – is on the other. Yet there still is one coin.
·       We could say there are two sides to every story, like there are two sides to every coin. In the Gospel passage today, the two sides are Mary and Martha.
·       Martha is doing all the things around the house that hospitality requires. You all know about that. She is also “distracted” from Jesus’ presence by the household chores. She goes and tells Jesus to have Mary help her, only to have Jesus tell her that Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.
·       Such an answer could be a sore point for so many who have worked so hard, especially in the service of their congregations. It almost sounds like those who teach, lead groups, make cabbage rolls and meat pies, run the food banks and yard sales, or do all the other things that congregations do today are taking a back seat to someone who sits and listens.
·       We can’t condemn Martha for what she is doing; she has done nothing wrong. In fact she is the image and example of what a disciple is supposed to be. Let’s face it; if not for her, Jesus would have gone hungry on that day. Martha probably could have used Mary’s help in doing all that welcoming Jesus (and probably his disciples) would require.
·       Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and listens to what he had to say. That’s a good thing, isn’t it? It is also offensive to the surrounding culture. As a woman of the time, she would not be expected to sit at the feet of her teacher and listen. Probably, she would not have been permitted to do that. So she broke expectations and the constraints of the society
·       … just like Jesus.
·       Last week’s Gospel told us the parable of the so-called Good Samaritan. The story shattered the expectations of the listeners by making the hated outsider the hero of the story. Here, the woman who would be expected to cook, serve, and clean up sat at Jesus’ feet and listened, going against what was expected of her. There’s a reason these stories are related one after the other. In their own way, both tell of the coming of God’s Kingdom in ways that would not be expected and in ways that reset any expectations we might have… except for the expectation that we love God and love our neighbor.
·       Martha and Mary are two sides of the same coin. As disciples, we are called to serve and as disciples, we are called to listen and hear the Good News. What Mary does is said to be the one thing needed because it is what inspires and strengthens us to serve. It is what give us our mission as Christians. We listen and then act in ways that show and advance the Kingdom. We need to be both listeners and do-ers of the Word.
·       When we use a coin to pay for something, we see there are two sides to each coin. When we hear the Word of God as a disciple, we know there are two sides there as well. We are called to act and we are called to listen. As disciples of Jesus, we cannot do one without the other. This following of Jesus may cause us to do things out of the ordinary for the world around us. That’s what discipleship could cost us, but that cost will be worth it, since it is a life of grace and grace leads to salvation and eternal life.
But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."

Monday, 15 July 2019

The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost ---- 14 July 2019

(This sermon was delivered twice. First for Sunday worship at the Transylvanian Saxon Heimattag celebration at the Saxonia Hall in Aylmer, ON, then at the usual Sunday worship service at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Aylmer, ON.)
Luke 10:25-37
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" 27 He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." 28 And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live." 29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 30 Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, "Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.' 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" 37 He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.
·       The story of the so called “Good Samaritan” has so many twists and turns in it, it can be shocking.
·       The “lawyer”, who is really an expert in the Law of Moses rather than a barrister of some sort, asks a question about what he must “do” to gain eternal life. Jesus turns it around, asking him what the Torah says about just that. The lawyer gives a great answer and Jesus approves. Then the lawyer asks “Who is my neighbor?” and the parable begins with, in modern English, “some guy was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho…”
·       A priest and a Levite pass the man by for reasons we don’t know about; maybe ritual purity, maybe fear, maybe callous apathy. The next passer-by stops, binds the man’s wounds, and carries him to an inn where he pays for the man’s care, including a promise to pay more if needed once he returns. Of course, this last man is a Samaritan, a group hated by the Jewish people. Why this hatred endured would be a long story, so we’ll just leave it here, saying again that the Samaritans were hated.
·       To make the hero of this story a Samaritan would be very shocking. If the story was about tolerance and acceptance, the man in the ditch would have been a Samaritan, but in Jesus’ story, the Samaritan is the man held up as the example. Jesus even says "Go and do likewise." Some scholars believe that this was added to give the story a moral.
·       The parable is deeper than a simple morality play. Parables are Jesus’ way of telling about the Kingdom of God. When the lawyer asks what he should do to inherit eternal life, Jesus’ answer turns the whole question upside down.
·       The despised outsider becomes the hero. The hated one shows true mercy, and goes out of his way to do more than what might reasonably be expected. (“Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.”) Our passage has Jesus describe the Samaritan as being moved with pity. That doesn’t really convey what words were really used. The Greek uses a word that says the man was moved in his bowels with compassion. It’s a gut-wrenching compassion. Luther’s translation says the man “jammerte” over the wounded man. What could that mean? Mourned? Lamented? Even ‘belly-ached’?
·       Whatever the case, Jesus says the Samaritan was moved so deeply in his guts that he had to help. To the lawyer, he’s saying ‘Leave behind your prejudices and judgements. Become someone who comes to the Kingdom with fresh eyes. Then you’ll see your neighbor as your neighbor. Nobody is excluded… even you.”
·       I wonder what the lawyer did after this encounter with Jesus. Maybe he refused to hear what Jesus said and tried again to ‘justify himself.’ Maybe he changed and became a disciple. Maybe he thought about it all and really had to help the next time he saw someone in need. We’re just guessing here.
·       What we are not guessing at is what Jesus is saying to his disciples. It isn’t something against the keepers of the Law. It isn’t a warning about hypocrisy. It isn’t even a blue print for how to act, telling what to do to inherit eternal life. It’s Jesus telling his disciples and anyone who can hear it that this is the Kingdom. This is how the Kingdom is made real right before your eyes. It can be gut-wrenching and even painful, but it is real and right there in front of you, for ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’  (Mt 25:40)
But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost ---- 7 July 2019

Galatians 6:[1-6]7-16
[1 My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 4 All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor's work, will become a cause for pride. 5 For all must carry their own loads. 6 Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.]

7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8 If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9 So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. 11 See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. 14 May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! 16 As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, "Peace to this house!' 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, "The kingdom of God has come near to you.' 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 "Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.'

16 "Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me." 17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!" 18 He said to them, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
·       With these words, Jesus welcomed his heralds back from their mission. They appear to be amazed that in your name even the demons submit to us! I think we’d all be surprised at something like that as well. Many people and possibly some of us struggle with what might have been called “demons” in past times – addiction, depression, uncontrolled anger and violence, mental illness, epilepsy. Maybe many struggle with the results of those “demons” as that have effected them in the lives of those around them. To have those conditions or illnesses “submit” to us “in Jesus’ name” would make things simple. Yet so many people struggle with these things all their lives.
·       Power over spirits and demons – I’d think we’d all like something like that. Yet Jesus tells the people who have actually seen that happen that they should rejoice in something else. He says they should rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
·       I don’t exactly know why Jesus said that. Maybe he was trying to remind the disciples that that power was his and not theirs. Such power could go to the head and lead to a desire to place such power over discipleship. Boasting and a self-absorbed life could follow closely. As disciples, we are not to place ourselves in a position where we feel we are “better” than some others. Our leaders are to be servants and our glory is elsewhere than in ourselves and our accomplishments. Otherwise, for some, it would be a small step to an understanding that we could save ourselves… by our own efforts… without the grace of God.
·       Instead Jesus tells the returned missionaries that the power they showed is true power, and it is less to be celebrated than the relationship they have with Jesus and the entire Kingdom of God. They were sent to proclaim that Kingdom, whether or not they were welcomed by the towns they went to. The power they received to cast out spirits and demons came from that mission, that proclamation, and the one who sent them. More importantly, their names are written in heaven, and the grace of God puts them in a relationship with God and the Kingdom.
·       I have never cast out a demon and done such deed of power. Still I hope to rejoice in the relationship I have with the one who has saved me. What can I say about that relationship? For that I have to turn to Paul and his letter to the Christians in Galatia.
·       He says May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
·       It is in the cross of Christ and the mercy and grace it shows to us where our “boasting” or rather, our certainty is found. I use ‘certainty’ because there is no way to fool ourselves about the mercy and grace of God, since in the cross, we realize that we have nothing to do with it! It is all grace and God’s mercy. It is in God’s grace shown to us in Jesus Christ that our hope and our certainty lies. With that we can state that, like the disciples returning from their mission rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.