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?

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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 – What a life change might mean

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51 – 53)

In both biblical times, and modern times, there exist rivalries and animosities. You have to look no further than sports team to so them. Although the tension between the Jews and the Samaritans came from religious positions and not recreational – then again for some sports are a religion!

“When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”But he turned and rebuked them.” (Verses 54 – 55)

And Jesus’ disciples were just as vulnerable to prejudices as the Samaritans. Let me be, beloved reader, Jesus cared as much for the Samaritans as he did the Jews, the people from which his earthly mother and father sprang from. The story of the Good Samaritan is proof that Jesus had, and has, a tender spot in the Divine heart for everyone.

Then they went on to another village. As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Verses 56 – 58)

I consulted a couple of biblical commentators about this passage and they have little or nothing to say about the metaphor that Jesus uses. It is plain enough on its surface, I imagine, to not need comment. Animals and birds have a place to call their own, to seek shelter, to rest and recuperate – but “the Son of Man” has no such place. The implication that the biblical commentators give is the way of life the Son of Man has is not one that others can emulate. But that flies in the face of the expectation that we take Jesus as our exemplar. Does that mean we should not get to comfortable in this life? That theology is also a strong presence in the gospels and in the epistles. Why not then tie it to this point in the story of Jesus’ journey and ministry?

“To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Verses 59 – 62)

Do you remember beloved reader back at the passage from the Old Testament where Elisha wanted to bid farewell to his father and family? Well, this is the passage that I had in mind when I contrasted Elijah allowing Elisha to make his good-byes and Jesus being adamant about following the call to himself. (Not believing deeply in coincidences, I am not surprised the RCL matched these two passages.) Interesting, is it not, that Elisha looked back in a way but also received the same portion of Godly authority that Elijah did.

It also makes a strong case that Jesus saw into the depths of these people’s hearts, and knew they were not really ready to commit to following Jesus and what it would entail. One has to trust that Jesus knows the best way to journey in life and what the destination should be. That along the way you will meet people who don’t see things your way, but that is no reason to write them off. The journey will be arduous, with little chance to take one’s leisure. And sacrifices must be made.

Now interestingly, Elisha burned the plow! And gave away the oxen meat! Perhaps that is what the Divine and Elijah saw; a young man who would be ready to commit to being a made of God and that set his affairs in good order so as to be ready to take up that call. May you, beloved reader, be as ready to follow our Lord God Jesus Christ! Selah!

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Gospel Passage – How to regain an ordinary life

Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”– for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.)” (Luke 8:26 – 29)

Imagine, if you will, Jesus coming to a hospital for the unstable/mentally unwell back in the day when patients were strapped down to beds and kept in locked rooms. Where no care was done and being “institutionalized” meant being warehoused with as little concern as is given boxes of merchandise that is not needed and has not been needed for several decades. Suddenly roaming free sounds like a slightly better alternative to that. Our understanding of mental illness and the way those who are survivors of mental illness has changed drastically. That does not mean they do not suffer; it means steps are taken to mitigate the suffering as much as possible. The one stark difference from this account and what the horrors were of decades ago is that we no longer believe such people are possessed by demons. But sadly we hold those who have mental illness accountable and responsible for their condition. Again, being thought to be possessed may be a kinder thing.

Jesus has compassion for the man, and wanted to release him from this bondage – both psychologically and culturally made. And maybe Jesus actions show that he has an understanding of the “possessed” man that the onlookers did not have.

“Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.” (Verses 30 – 33)

As a student of psychology, I do not quite understand or buy into what happened to the demons. I have been told by those who would know that people can, still, be possessed by demons. So maybe this man did not have paranoia or schizophrenia or any of the other possible psychological conditions. I also don’t know where the advantage was for the demons to possess a bunch of pigs. The results, however, caused quite an uproar. And maybe in some round about way that was the Divine purpose.

“When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country.
Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed.” (Verses 34 – 36)

Back in the day of insane asylums being “cured” was very unlikely. If the condition itself did not preclude a cure, the conditions they lived under would pretty much assure that a normal life was not possible. And maybe that is the point of the drowned swine. SOME sort of explanation needed to be given as to why the man was “in his right mind.” That the demons were vanquished and so visibly destroyed gave credence to the cure. And the man may well have been accepted back in to society more easily than if his “cure” would have been quiet and without drama.

“Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.” (Verses 37 – 39)

It was not an unkindness that Jesus did not let the cured man come along with him. First, we know where Jesus’ ministry would eventually take him. This man had already had a hard road; he did not need to venture down another one. Second, by recounting the story with the drowned pigs gave the cured man’s story a tangible conclusion – that of course he no longer had demons. They were drowned! Third, since Jesus was not welcomed to preach and heal there, the cured man and his dramatic story would have promoted fervor and interest, and those who were NOT afraid of such power would seek him out, or at least seek out new about Jesus.

I had asked before, beloved reader – how to you plan to live out Ordinary Time? How do you plan to live out your ordinary life? And if beloved reader your life is not ordinary, I hope and pray that the Divine is with you in a powerful way; and that you share that story! Selah!

Trinity Sunday, 2019 Year C : The Epistle Passage – The Diversity of the Divine was thinking about us and loving of us

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1 – 2)

Paul, in the previous passage, had made a strong argument that we are justified by faith by virtue of the fact that we believe in the Divine who sent Jesus and raised him from the dead. This argument/conclusion coupled with the fact that the Divine had forethought this grace would be made available to us proves to me that we (humanity) have been foremost in the Divine’s thoughts. Actually, that does sound a little bit anti-climatic. Mayhap the audience that Paul was writing to found it more stirring. Although “sharing the glory of God” would be pretty awesome. It is the next section that has the relevant part to Trinity Sunday.

“And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Verses 3 – 5 [emphasis mine] )

Jesus told his disciple the Holy Spirit would guide them, teach them, inspire them, and direct them. But I do not think he talked about the Holy Spirit loving us. That is not to say that Paul is wrong or is over stepping in his thinking. What I take it to mean is that it was obvious that the Holy Spirit would love us as Jesus loved his disciples and as the Divine loves us. It is an idea/concept that under girds the theology of a Triune Divine. Each aspect of the Triune Divine has compassion for humanity. And that is also pretty awesome! Selah!

Day of Pentecost, 2019 Year C : Epistle Passage – All of the Divine under the Divine

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.” (John 14:8 – 11)

Creator and Redeemer – yes they are one. It really could not be presented any clearer. I do and can understand though, if Philip and has fellow disciples had in mind a Yahweh that was very much different then Jesus, then maybe it would not seem logical and streamline that Jesus and the Divine who sent Jesus were one and the same. After all we have so many passages in the Old Testament that talk about “the One to come” but only in hindsight can be it realized that Jesus is “the One.” And, as I have repeatedly said the passages that are predictive of Jesus were not necessarily written in the context of the Messiah. Or at least not the Messiah that they were expecting according to the Adonai who they knew, or thought they knew.

“Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” (Verse 12)

I admit I am not sure what that verse means, so I consulted Albert Barnes, and there found the answer I sought. It is not the depth or magnitude of “works” that the disciples will do, but the effect over time and geography. As Barnes said, Jesus was “confined” to one geographic area and a limited span of time on earth. The disciples/apostles will carry forth the word of God and the stories of the works of Jesus Christ across distances and down through time. Of course this happened (or will happen) because Jesus is returning to heaven and the Holy Spirit will be sent down to the disciples.

“I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” (Verses 13 – 17)

The flow of grace and power – the Creator who loved humanity so much that Jesus was sent, and Jesus taught in real-time ways what the Creator was like, and then the Holy Spirit was sent to be a reminder through time and generations of what the Creator and Jesus Christ the Redeemer were about. This is why I and others believe in a triune Divine.

“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (Verses 25 – 27)

I was thinking recently about the places that scripture said Jesus opened up the scriptures and helped the disciples to understand it. And I was reminded how my seminary professors did the same; and that their professors taught them. Stretching back generation upon generation there have been teachers and students. My hope is that that like stretches back to the original disciples/apostles. And it humbles me more than I can say or write that I might in some small way stand in the line of teachers and students. But let me tuck that thought away, and return to my theme – that under the title that I use “The Divine” dwells all the aspects of the Lord God as that God-self is understood by all believers. Shalom and Selah!