Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Gospel Passage – A narrative of truth that exposes the best way to handle wealth and resources

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ “ (Luke 16:1 – 4)

This is another one of those parables by Jesus that it took me some time to understand; not just, mind you, studying it once but delving into to understand the hidden meaning and the concepts that Jesus is pointing out. What I did not realize was that the rich man firing his manager is an allusion to the end of this life and the coming of the life/world to come. In this sense it, well, makes sense.

“So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ “ (Verses 5 – 7)

Understood in this way, I can see a parallel to my work life. For, beloved reader, I do not have wealth to give to others that will provide for me a home. Nor do I have command to power to make the changes that this manager does. What I did have in my last job, however, was the power and authority to establish a certain way of handling my employees and the clients who have services from us. My approach was compassion, understanding, acceptance of people’s weakness & needs, and patience that could be stretch pretty thin. While I had to set some boundaries, I always did it with compassion and care. And I made myself available to both employees and clients 24/7 – to the frustration of my family who become tired of me constantly on call. My new job does not quite give me the same latitude, but I approach each work day with that mind set. I was not dishonest – I could never be that. But I freely admit I took advantage of my position as a supervisor to be exactly the type of boss I would want to have.

“And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.
And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.
“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?” (Verses 8 – 12)

I have been at my new job for almost two full years. And in that time I have been given much more responsibility than I thought I would. At times more responsibility than I really wanted. I guess if I was very honest, putting aside humbleness, I would have to say I have been faithful with the “little” I was given. And as I showed my faithfulness “more” was given.

“No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Verse 13)

Now to make sure that the people who were listening to Jesus did not get the wrong idea, Jesus establishes the boundary that wealth is not to be used to commit sin. But it is to be used to accomplish the goals of caring and compassion. The manager did not steal from the rich man as he showed compassion to those in debt to his master. He used his position to make their lives easier and better. And that has always been the overriding purpose in each job I have had – to support, improve, and add to the lives of others. May you do likewise beloved reader! Selah!

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Epistle Passage – Hope from the Master’s Hand

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our dear friend and co-worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus.
I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ.” (Philemon 1:1 – 6)

I do not remember when I first read this epistle from Paul to Philemon; but if I am remembering correctly, my first impression was that it was like his other letters to area churches who were new in the faith. And would be shared with the group and passed from person to person. However, this is a more personal letter sent to an individual or, more likely based on the salutation, a specific household – Philemon’s. And it deals with a specific issue; not straight theology nor an issue of theological faith, but living out Christian ideals. And one ideal specifically. But Paul has ground work to lay first.

“I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother. For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, 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.” (Verses 7 – 9)

Paul commends the recipient of the letter for the faith that Paul has heard of, and based on this faith, that Paul has certain expectations of how Philemon should and would act concerning this matter.

“I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. 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; but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced.” (Verses 10 – 14)

Without the background of who Philemon and Onesimus were to each other, this was confusing for me to read. Even more so, because at the age I was when I read it, I had no idea that there were commentaries to explain books of the bible. (A note aside – I sometimes think that I grasped biblical concepts with greater ease WITHOUT commentaries and their sometimes confusing narratives. But having consulted with them enough, I return to them when I mistrust my own understandings ONLY to discover I had the right of it all along! But I digress. Sigh.) When I did gain an understanding of the back story, the letter made more sense.

“Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, 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. So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.” (Verses 15 – 17)

Here Paul applies the subtle pressure. Onesimus has come to faith, and having faith is now considered an equal relative in the family of God and Jesus Christ. As Philemon would consider Paul as a relative to him under the Divine. Apparently, however, it was not always so. But now it is, and Paul wants Philemon to understand this . . . clearly.

“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.” (Verses 18 – 19)

Again, when I read this long ago it puzzled me. What would Onesimus owe Philemon or how would he have Philemon? And what sort of triangle of obligation or debt is Paul referring to?

“Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ.” (Verses 20)

Let me reassure you, beloved reader, I am now completely and fully aware of the nuances and implications of this passage and the letter in it entirety. The good news and salvation that comes from that news is highly prized by Paul. It is worth more than any one in a lifetime could accumulate. In fact, according to Paul, if a person had nothing but a assurance of salvation in their life, they would have more than any one unsaved but with gold, silver, and possession untold. Paul, in leading Philemon to faith, gave him this most cherished of gifts and blessings. And so Paul feels that he can call upon Philemon to indulge him and grant any favor that Paul might ask. Paul says, in affect, that because Philemon has shown such devotion to Christian living and principles his faith must be deep and firm – kudos and commendations to Paul. Therefore, Philemon knows the value of this faith. And he knows that others who have this faith must be valued and given equal status as Philemon perceives himself . . . and Paul.

So, we come to Onesimus . . . who has also received faith and salvation . . . and like Philemon is dear and valuable to Paul. And, but, & however . . . . Onesimus is/was Philemon’s slave. (And when I realized that, beloved reader, I was blown away! A Christian owned/still owned a slave!)

So Paul is sending Onesimus back. Not, however, as a slave but as a dear son of Paul and in Paul’s esteem. Equal, in Paul’s estimation, to Philemon. And Paul wants Philemon to consider Onesimus in the same way; not as a slave but as a brother and fellow believer in Christ.

What a position for Philemon to be in. And what a position for Onesimus to be in. What love and faith Onesimus must have in Paul. And what faith Onesimus must have in Philemon’s conversion to Christianity. And lastly, what faith Paul must have in Philemon’s continuation of authentic Christian living.

I talked about a triangle of obligation and debt that existed amongst these three people. Each presuming on faith that the other two would live up to expectations. But there is also hope – a concept we looked at two weeks ago. There is the reality of what happens when we stray from the ways and guidance of the Divine. And the hope we have that we will be welcomed back. The called and chosen people faced this reality, and nurtured the hope that the Divine would welcome then back. Onesimus faced this reality when he ran away. Paul gave him hope; first in the Lord God, and second that Philemon would welcome him back without punishment and recriminations. Paul based his hope on the value that Philemon gave to his salvation and his relationship to Paul.

Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.” (Verse 21)

I do not know what happened between Philemon and Onesimus. One would “hope” that the slave was welcomed back with open arms, and became a brother and worker in in the labor of the household, and in the mission and evangelism that Philemon was a part of. That the position of master (hence the title) and slave might be redefined.

The story might conclude right there. However, Paul was never one to let things rest without a final nudge. And the following is not part of the lectionary, but I thought beloved reader you might find it interesting.

One thing more—prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping through your prayers to be restored to you. . . . The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” (Verses 22 & 25)

Make of that what you will, beloved reader. I know I did! Selah!

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The New Testament Passage – To staving off complaints, remember to be humble

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. When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable.
“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; 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. 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. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:1, 7 – 11)

This is a passage and concept I encountered when I was quite young in the faith. It was not difficult for me to understand this and incorporate it into my life. Coming from a Mennonite/Anabaptist background being quiet, humble, and unassuming was part of the air and atmosphere I was raised in. I think this was one of the reasons I was a “late bloomer.” I simply did not “force” myself into a situation, and so never tested myself in the world until I was into adulthood. There are some pros and cons about that but I really do not want to get into them in the context of this discussion.

“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. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Verses 12 – 14)

This portion of the passage was a little harder for me to wrap my thinking around. First, I so rarely “give” a luncheon or dinner, nor a banquet. And if I did, it would only be for close friends and family BECAUSE I would never assume that anyone other than those close to me would be interested in hobnobbing with me! But I understand the larger concept. And again, I am not one to try to impress others with my styling hospitality. I remember one time I had a gathering for family at our house on the occasion of my daughter’s being blessed and recognized at our home church at the time. I was so nervous about it, and just wanted everything to be perfect. I fretted over the little buffet I set up, and thought that either no one would come or we would be flooded with people and there would not be enough food. In the years since than I have gained more confidence in my hosting and hospitality abilities.

One final thought, beloved reader. I have found those who have NOT been seated close to or at the place of honor to be much more pleasant company. And I have always found the best repayment for inviting people is the pleasure of their company – status notwithstanding!

May you, beloved reader, not play the “high society” game but reserve for your self the honor of merely accepted any where at the Lord’s table! Selah!

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Gospel Passage – Hope springs . . . at the proper time and season – which is any time it is needed!

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 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. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”
When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.” (Luke 13:10 – 13)

I can not think of a more perfect time for a miracle to happen than on the Lord’s Day, which ever day you might celebrate it on. And what better way and time to lift up praise for a miracle then on the Lord’s Day. There is a long and strong tradition in worship services to bring both praises and petitions to the church service. Now, in our modern times miracles may not happen during a worship service . . . but one should not be surprised if it does!

“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.” (Verse 14)

Now here is the first error in thinking that is presented in this passage – that healing and curing of ailments is “work”. No, far from it! It is a joy and celebration that the Divine has moved in such a mighty way! What is the Sabbath but a time we gather with others and lift others up, encouraging and consoling our fellow believers. “Small” miracles happen here, and as I said above, small miracles can develop into large miracles!

“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? 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?” (Verses 15 – 16)

Now, I am not sure how much I appreciate the connect between healing this woman and tending to livestock. But if you are appealing to a male agrarian mentality set in the era before equality between genders, may be it is an appropriate analogy.

“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.” (Verse 17)

I like that the writer of Luke have the people in the congregation rejoicing. This story reminds me of the story where the woman with a bleeding disease touches the robe of Jesus. It also reminds me of the time I went to a worship center that had weekly opportunities for people in the larger community to come for prayer and healing. It did not, however, have a good outcome. The people who were running it were too focused on their own abilities and hubris in being able to pray for people and offering healing. I realized soon after I got there that while it might be have been touted as a Christian worship center, it was in actually a place where false faith was running rampant. I was glad to see it was shut down soon after I went. And I say none to lightly it was only by the grace of God I got out of there unscathed!

Hope comes when we need it, beloved reader, according to the movement of the Spirit and not according to any other time table. Yes, we need to be in the proper place to experience it; that place however is not so much a physical location as it is being prepared, and preparing our heart and soul. May you, beloved reader, find hope in all the usual and unusual places in your life. Selah!

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Old Testament Passage – Hope springs . . . through Sabbath observances?

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, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:9b – 10)

The other Old Testament passage, beloved reader, is where Jeremiah is called out by the Lord and sanctified to speak the Lord God’s words – Jeremiah 1:4-10. I think I have written about Jeremiah’s calling before – considering this is the second time through Year C. And I am sure the passage has come up other times in other writings. But I digress.

The last few weeks have seen a theme of Israel and Judah being critiqued, scolded, and disciplined by the prophets. It is interesting to see, in the privacy of our own thoughts and reflects, if the exhortations of then apply to us now. Do they beloved reader? There is hope though in this passage, that if the exhortation is heeded and applied that darkness will give way to light. We could apply that to ourselves as well.

“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. 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.” (Verses 11 – 12)

Not only will darkness give way to light but, theses verses promise, light will come to others. Considering the dire situation that some of the Old Testament prophets describe, it seems pretty wondrous that this could happen. It also seems rather contrary and paradoxical in light of some New Testament understandings, that each person needs to make their own petition to the Divine and follow the example of Jesus Christ.

“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; 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.” (Verses 13 – 14)

The Sabbath is very important, so it seems, in this passage and to the writer of Isaiah. He starts out by speaking generally about being in good relationship with others – speaking well and offering compassion. But as he continues of instruction, he narrows down to the keeping of the Sabbath. It is interesting to think about this, contrasting what should be done on the Sabbath versus what is allowed on other days. And I have to wonder if this emphasis on the Sabbath made way for ever larger inconsistency between Sabbath living and the other days of the week.

I will have to think about this as the week moves forward; what the Epistles might say and what Jesus Christ himself might say – according to the verses and passages that comprise the RCL this week. You think too, beloved reader, and ponder. Shalom!

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Psalm Passage – Preacher and Seeker praise the “standard” steadfast love of the Divine’s

Seeker: “O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.”
Preacher:
We read in the Old Testament portion that the Lord God was hurt in the Divine’s heart that the Israel people had wandered and strayed from their beginnings. That they had turned their backs on their Lord God who had called them out and sought to bless them and guide their lives. But they did not want guidance, and in their arrogance chose those things that were opposed to the will and direction of their God. Now whether their troubles and burdens came because they abandoned God, or because they were victimized by the larger nations around them – I do not know. But in their time of trouble they called on the Lord God to give them hope and deliverance.
Seeker: “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, those he redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.”

Preacher: Now the land of Israel and Judah was good land, and for the people of Israel and Judah there were generations where they proposed and grew. Maybe because the Lord God did bless them, or maybe because their practicality and determined ways paid off – I do not know. They were not the only nations, however that grew large, fat, and rich. You know success attracts attention, develops jealousy, avarice, and envy. The kings of the nations around them suffered from that, as did the kings of Israel and Judah. Many stories in the Old Testament are about the tug of how has control and power over who, and who is left to forage for simple existence.
Seeker: “Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to an inhabited town; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; he led them by a straight way, until they reached an inhabited town.”

Preacher: We think our modern times are so different. That we are above grasping and grappling for what we see other have. We read about that too, having over abundance and being determined to keep what we feel is rightfully ours and to clasp to ourselves that which we really do not need. And to ignore the needs of others. I tell you, we Christians should share what we have, and what the Lord God has given to us. Both our blessings and the grace that the Divine has shown us.
Seeker: “Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. For he satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.”
Preacher:
There is in our world thirst and hunger. And I will be the first to admit that many go hungry and thirsty. But I tell you, that is not what the Lord God intends. Economist and sociologists tell us there would be enough for all, if those who have much would share with those who have nothing. I don’t if that is true – maybe if we reconfigured what our “standard of living” is, everyone would have an equal amount. But you and I know that is probably not going to happen. There is, however, enough love and compassion within the Divine for everyone to have more than they need. That may not feed the belly, but it would feed the soul. And if enough souls are feed to move hearts to compassion and open coffers and bulging barns, everyone belly could be satisfied. As I said, it may not happen in this world. But be assured!!! It will happen in the world to come! Selah!
Seeker: “Let those who are wise give heed to these things, and consider the steadfast love of the LORD.” (Psalm 107:1-9, 43)

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Epistle Passage – The standards that the Divine has set

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”(Colossians 3:1 – 3)

I did wonder about these verses, beloved reader, and wanted to confirm their meaning – according to the understandings and interpretation of others. I will often look first at different translations, and if those are pretty much the same I can concluded that the words and phrasing are indicative of something important. And that is the case here; “for you have died” means that the old earthly way of life is gone and that the rule of law (meaning Jewish law) is not longer a determinant on our lives. Instead, our new life in Christ is hidden with Christ and is save . . . supposedly. That is dependent on our maintaining a faith and belief in Jesus Christ and the Lord God. It would not occur to Paul, evidently, that no one would stray from that.

“When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.” (Verses 4 – 6)

You can see that Paul is actually outlining a pretty basic living a Godly life.

“These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things–anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.” (Verses 7 – 10)

It seems at times we make too much of following specific faith tenets. Or we define with such precision what the impurities and evil desires are. I can think of so instances where people of faith have divided themselves on what is proper living. We (meaning followers of the Divine) take into our own hands the task of judging what these sinful traits are. At times, many times, we seem to be more strict than Paul! Now you might say that Paul did not have to adjudicate the actions of professed believers in modern society; that if Paul was here he would have much to say about what in our modern times is sin and what is not. But Paul did, actually have something to say about that.

“In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!” (Verse 11)

Can it not be enough, beloved reader, to welcome those who profess a faith in the Divine, and to trust that the Divine will keep their faith life “hidden with Christ in God”? Selah!

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Gospel Passage – Praying from the edges

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” (Luke 11:1- 4)

I have to think, beloved reader, of all the places I have prayed. And all the things I have prayed about. I am not sure how old I was when I first started praying to the Divine on my own. I am pretty sure it was before I got to high school. I know during high school I prayed a lot – teenage things. But it established a pattern of coming to the Lord God in prayer. So many times when I pray, I think to myself “Why didn’t I pray about this sooner?” It puzzles me how I can just let myself get fearful and panicky when I should have just turned it over to the Divine in prayer! Of course, sometimes I turn issue over to the Divine in prayer, and then “snatch them back” later on so I can worry and fret over them again.

I have thought about and commented on the Lord’s Prayer many many times over the years. I am not sure I have much new to say about it. But praying in general? I can’t stop talking about it!

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.” (Verses 5 – 8)

When I first started praying to the Divine, I would pray mostly to Jesus and I would pray as if I was conversing with a Friend. So this analogy makes sense. And I like it because it helps believers feel comfortable coming to the Divine, and feeling a reassurance that help and support is always available.

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Verses 9 – 10)

In these last years, when my health has been impacted, I find myself praying a lot more. Not petition prayers so much, but coming to the Divine when I feel broken and just plain worn out. I guess I pray as I would talk to a physician, which is also a good model as one of the Divine’s aspect is the Great Physician or Healer. Now, it is not medical healing I am seeking; I have talked about this in other places and times. It is a healing for my broken spirit.

“Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Verses 11 – 13)

The turning point came, beloved reader, when I stopped asking the Lord God for specific things from my list of needs, and started telling the Lord God what my concerns, worries, and fears were and what issues were concerning me, causing me worry and fear. And then just simply asking the Divine for help. Not according to my own understanding but trusting that the Lord God understood better than me what was needed. Then what came I prayed to the Lord God to use well and wisely. I wish, beloved reader, we could talk in person about pray and praying when times are tense. And I hope and pray you have someone who you can talk to about prayer. Praying about prayer is good; but it is also good to share with others about your prayer life. May you do so! Selah!!

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Gospel Passage – The question was, “Being called forth to be what sort of Christian? “ The answer is, “This sort”

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 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.”And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” (Luke 10:25 – 28)

There are times, beloved reader, that I feel the title of these reflections is enough to convey my opinion and/or perspective on the passage. The lawyer told the answer to his question (and actually my question) was/is to love the Divine with every particle of our body and to give our neighbor the same care and compassion etc that we hope for and expect for ourselves. It should be simple enough.

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Verses 29)

However, the human spirit (in its sin and fallibility) does not do “simple”, and demands that particulars and specifics are spelled out. It would be easy to say that it is because this man was a “lawyer” that he tried to place loose with the law; but the truth is that many people of all sorts of education and background try to get away with the least amount of care and compassion given to others, yet expect the most given to them.

“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. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” (Verses 30 – 32)

These are people who know the law, and would be expected to exhibit the care and compassion that Jesus confirmed was in the law. And you can easily (and should) substitute in any man/woman of God for the priest and Levite.

“But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.” (Verse 33)

Likewise you should substitute in the most unlikely person to be moved to compassion by the unfortunate condition of another. Maybe even the person who you, beloved reader, feel is the antithesis of your own faith beliefs!

“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. 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.’” (Verses 34 – 35)

Now understand beloved reader – the Samaritan would have been the antithesis to this Jewish lawyer; a person who the Jewish lawyer would scorn and dismiss as incapable of following the law. And Samaritans generally speaking (unfortunately) would have been expected to act more like the priest or Levite. And then Jesus asks the question (which I also asked in my way) . . . .

“Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Verses 36 – 37)

In the Old Testament passage the Lord God set up a plumb line to measure the people of Israel, Jesus also set up a plumb line (most likely a very similar one) and a good many people failed that one as well. Do not, beloved reader, be such a person! Selah!

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Epistle Passage – Being called forth to be what sort of Christian?

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.
This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.” ( Colossians 1:1 – 8)

I imagine in my mind the conversation between Epaphras and Paul about the Colossians; stories of the care and faithfulness, giving ways and patience, compassion and unconditional acceptance. I do not know if that is how Paul would describe what a “model” Christian would be. I know that is, in part, how I would describe one. I am not sure if Paul would put more emphasis on the “living in hope of salvation” or the treating of others as fellow “saints”. Sometimes I suspect there might have been a “them” and “us” mentality then; I know it is not a good image of how an authentic Christian should be now. At least, again, from my perspective. But you, beloved reader, are welcome to imagine the Colossians how ever you want to.

“For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Verses 9 – 14)

So much of how we picture Christians of the early church is based on Paul’s description. And that is okay, if we all agree on how to interpret and understand what Paul said. The things is, we don’t. So we are left to fashion for ourselves, individually and in our faith circles, how a good model authentic Christian should act. How I would love to sit with you, beloved reader, and hear from you as to how you act out your Christian faith. But I am here, at my keyboard, and hear little if anything as to what your thoughts are. You, on the other hand, get to hear from me quite often as to my perspective and opinion. I guess that is another thing Paul and I have in common – not much feedback from our readers! Or at least not much recorded feedback . . . which in the long run is pretty much the same.

So I must, as Paul does, pray “for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” and commend you the Divine. Selah!