Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Gospel Passage – When faithful and devoted believers do terribly sad and unwise things

“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!” (Luke 12:49 – 50)

I was all ready, beloved reader, to write a critique of the urgency of these first two verses. But I paused a moment and thought of my own “dear” self, and realized I am the same way. When something urgently needs to be done, I want to get it done! When a task needs to be accomplished, whether large or small, I want to get moving and do it. For the small ones I say, “This won’t take long so I want to do it now, and then move on to the next thing.” For the large ones I say, “This is going to take some time and effort so I want to map out my plan and at least start the first step/stage.” In other words, I just can’t wait!!

“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Verses 51 – 53)

I used to be shy and hesitant about speaking my mind, deferring rather than opening up. But that has changed. More often than not I speak my mind, and if it ruffles some feathers, then maybe they need to be ruffled. I used try to be controversial – never really pulled it off. But I realized maybe it was not that I was so mundane but so persuasive that no only really took issue with it. Anyway, while I am a person of peace, I am far from being retiring and reticent.

“He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens.” (Verses 54 – 55)

Over the years I have refined my counseling techniques. Many times when I see someone heading towards a “not good place in life” I try to warn them. If they do not heed my warnings, I don’t intercede but just wait for the inevitable mess up, and then help them recover from their missteps. But if in my honest and considered opinion the person should have known better, I don’t give a warning but wait for the mess up. Because, well, sometimes people have to learn the tough lessons of life . . . . several times over.

“You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” (Verse 56)

Overall, in the past, I thought this passage was rather harsh and unyielding. But I have come to see that sometimes you have to be blunt and direct to get your point across. I know the Divine has a time or two (or three or four) had to use blunt and direct tactics with me.

It is my hope and prayer, beloved reader, that you will learn quickly, well, and completely the things the Divine has to teach you. Selah!

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Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Gospel Passage – Hearing what Jesus Christ the Divine is saying

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:32 – 34)

Back several days when we were considering the Old Testament passage I said that the contrast between the Isaiah passage and the Genesis passage could teach us a lesson – the people of Israel/Judah seemed less likely to relate directly to the Lord God than those people before the formation of kingdoms. Jesus is talking directly to his inner circle of disciples – as the Lord God talked to Abraham. While it was a slow lesson, Abraham learned that if he placed his trust completely in the Divine his “treasure”, ie legacy, would be save. In a manner of speaking, the disciples’ legacy was also kept safe when trusting everything to the Lord God Jesus Christ. Jesus instructs his disciples (and those who heed the words) further.

Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.” (Verses 35 – 38)

Now we may set this terms of end times – it is to do so when we think about Jesus as the returning Master. But as the biblical commentators explained it to me, it is not Jesus returning to the earth but we being called to Jesus the Divine Lord God. That is, our death. Do not wait, beloved reader, until you are staring your mortality to follow the Divine. Start following the Divine now! Have your lamps lit – show forth Christian acts and kindness. You know what it expected as followers of the Lord God, so do that!

“But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” (Verses 39 – 40)

Now here I must admit that it sounds more “Second Coming” like. But remember that at this point Jesus had not died yet, so the disciples really had no inkling that the “Son of Man” needed to come back. The biblical commentators think that Jesus is alluding to his death, resurrection, and return; that comes from knowledge of what is going to happen . . . . that I am reluctant to credit to the disciples. However without that readily handy rationale it is hard to figure out what Jesus meant. Maybe we are putting too much emphasis on the “return” of the Son of Man. If the master of the household goes on a journey and then returns, maybe the disciples just assume that Jesus might travel to another area and then come back to see if the disciples were following the teachings the Divine laid out. It could be as simple as that.

And if we take that line of reasoning, maybe it is likened to when the Lord God visited Abraham. Or the Holy Presence of the Lord God came into the Holy of Holies. Yes, I could see that. We know, beloved reader, and we take these words at greater preponderance because Jesus left the earth so dramatically and has been gone so long. Therefore, the Divine’s return would be a greater, MUCH GREATER, event. But still, it could be at any time. Will you be ready?

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Gospel Passage – The standards of living that we have & that the Divine has

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:13 – 15)

I was at the airport the day I sat down to write on this; I was waiting for someone’s flight to come in. And as I was waiting I was watching people come and go in the airport. With new regulations, air travel is getting more complicate – in all sorts of ways. This time I was pondering on luggage, and the need to pack as lightly as one can to avoid paying baggage fees. And I was thinking, how can people get all of the things they must need for a trip in such a small bag! Now I did not know how far they were traveling or how long they would be away; I saw luggage that would barely hold a change of clothes and overnight wear, much less the needed items for cleansing and bathing in the morning!

I know I am “baggage” challenged; I just cannot pack very light. I shudder to think how I would manage packing for an airplane flight! When I was young, I carried a huge purse because I felt I needed to be prepared for all sorts of emergencies if/when I was away from home. It has taken me years to downsize my purse! So, I am thinking if/how these verses apply to my people watching and my own need ensure I am prepared for just about any emergency. And I am not convinced that these verses are germane to the situation. But it is a good thought exercise. And as we see, Jesus’ parable does narrow the focus.

Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ “ (Verses 16 – 19)

First, beloved reader, my purse size is NOT parallel to the rich man tearing down old barns and building new ones – so let’s just get that out of the way! Second, the implication is that the man’s lands produced far more than he needed for his own sustenance and for the length of one growing season. And let me add one of the reasons I carry such a well supplied purse is so that I can not only meet my own needs but can meet the needs of others – whatever they might need in an emergency. The rich man clearly had not intentions of sharing his abundance with others. Anyone who knows me knows that I will lend out just about anything to someone in need!

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” (Verses 20 – 21)

One of the things that life and living has taught me is to hold my possessions lightly. But to also secure my possession from those with harmful intent. It is a very delicate balancing act, and something that I continue to work at. I could digress and talk at great length about this issue. But Jesus points to the important points. We need to secure that which is important to our continued existence, so that we can provide for ourselves and those who are dependent on us. It does us and the circle of humanity no good if we do not have what is needed in good times and bad. BUT that means we need to SHARE what we have, in good times and bad. Our abundance should be good news for others, that we are willing to meet their needs as well as our own.

May you, beloved reader, share with others and not reserve the greater part for yourselves and ignore the needs of others. 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 – Finding the correct way to move forward in one’s faith and spiritual life

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 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.” 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.” ( Luke 10:38-42)

I have trouble with this passage, beloved reader. Trouble that started in my childhood and followed me in adulthood and into seminary. It was one of the conundrums that seminary did not relieve. In fact, because of a seminary professor who did not have an understanding of how women might feel entering ministry, it only got worse. I had suggested in a commentary I wrote that perhaps Martha and Mary could find a have way point; offering care and hospitality while also paying attention to the teaching and instruction that was given. “No”, my seminary professor said, “that is not the proper way to interpret this passage.” And because he so “shut me down” I don’t remember what his “correction” was.

One might say “of course it is more important to listen to preaching/teaching than fix a meal or wash clothes.” But I would warrant, beloved reader, that is because someone else is offering hospitality! And this type of attitude shuts out many women (and perhaps some men) whose gift, strength, and calling is hospitality. I know of legions and generations of good Christian women who felt their place was in the kitchen and in the laundry room. It is where they served. Furthermore the biblical commentators make it very clear that Martha was in the wrong and Mary was in the right. Finally, at the time I was just wrapping my brain around the concept that not only could I be a “Mary” but that I could pass on the instruction and guidance I had been given – that I could learn well enough to teach others. (It felt good to get that all out! Been waiting about 20 years to be able to articulate that!!)

As I so often ask, however, where do we go from here? What does it mean for us? First, remember what Paul said about different roles in the church and ministry. Second, understand that maybe Jesus had an insight into Martha’s thinking that explains this incident. Third, remember that Jesus said his “burden” is light and his “yoke” is easy – that we should not worry some much about earthly daily things. And fourth, be aware of what Jesus is calling you to. Jesus may have called upon Martha as much as he did Mary – that is, inviting them to sit and listen to what he had to say.

May you, beloved reader, sit to listen, ponder, meditate and learn more than you run around “worried and distracted by many things.” 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 Gospel Passage – Knowing in Whose Name you are being sent out in

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.” (Luke 10:1)

I was just thinking about this passage the other day. While I was pondering it, I did not remember that it followed the incident where the Samaritan town rejected Jesus because he was journeying to Jerusalem. Remember beloved reader, he chastised his disciples for their anger at the rejection. Here are better instructions as to how to evangelize. And the rationale for evangelism. As I remember, I encouraged you beloved reader to be ready to follow Jesus when called. Not IF called, but when!

“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. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.“ (Verses 2 – 4)

That last part, “greet no one on the road”, is a little bit of a puzzlement to me. So I cautiously investigated with the biblical commentators, and was glad I did! Apparently meeting and greeting someone on the road was a prolonged exchange and giving proper honor to the other. It could take time, time that was needed to journey far to spread the gospel.

Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.” (Verses 5 – 6)

Another curious thing; when one extends peace it is a thing of value and akin to a blessing. If the blessing it not properly or graciously received the giver will not be held liable for giving something of value. They have have done was right and proper, extending a gift and blessing for which they assumed the recipient was worthy.

“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. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ “ (Verses 7 – 9)

This one I understand. When you find hospitality, accept it graciously, however much the hospitality is pleasing and comfortable. Don’t “shop around” for the best place to stay. And do not withhold your services from anyone who desires it and accepts it.

“But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘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.’ “ (Verses 10 – 11)

This is the portion of the passage that I was thinking on – if you (the disciple) and the message you carry is not accepted, do not stay there to convince them but leave and take nothing from the place you visited. Not bad feelings, resentment, an attitude (as the disciples showed in the Samaritan town) or anything else. Now, that is not from the biblical commentators but from me. The biblical commentators’ perspective is/was that the new of Jesus Christ was true and valuable. And disbelief was not to sully or interfere with the truth of it’s Message and Sender. And that disciples were to be very clear what the inhabitants of the town/village was rejecting.

Now, as to why I was pondering this portion of the passage – I am not sure I remember! But thinking about it in this moment – I think I was thinking about it in terms of my past employment. Or more precisely (as I seek to recollect my thought process at the time) interviewing for jobs that I did not get. At the start of my job search I felt I had a great deal to offer in experience and knowledge. By the end of my job search I just hoped someone would hire me! And I have to wonder (now) if that is what Jesus was trying to prevent the disciples from feeling – the rejection of the message of Jesus and the Lord God making the disciples feel rejected and discouraged. After all, this was probably their first foray into evangelism. And as Jesus said, he is sending them out “like lambs in the midst of wolves”!

“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” (Verse 16)

Although Jesus’ instructions to the disciple seem a little unusual, he really was looking out for their best interests!

“The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 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. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Verses 17 – 20)

During my job search I often wondered where I would end up working. In the beginning I did not want a job just for the sake of having a job and income. Toward the end I was very worried about getting any type of job. Being helpful and in the service of others for the sake of the Divine seemed to become a more and more distant hope. When I was finally hired I had to wonder what the Divine had in mind for me in this job. In my last job it seemed to clear what my calling was.

I am still discerning the call in my present job; some days it seems so clear. Other days it seems distant and shroud covered. But what I do know is this; the places that did not hire me – I left the dust of those places behind. NOT that they rejected the message of the Divine I might have carried; but that they obviously were no the places I should be. When you journey out into the world beloved reader, whether it be for a job or for a mission journey – apply the instructions of the Divine as it seems best. And may your journeying be blessed! Selah!