Fourth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Gospel Passage – Being “loved” by Jesus the Christ

Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:21-22)

This is a continuation of last week’s gospel passage – I did wonder if the RCL was going to complete the story. I also wonder if the people of Jesus’ hometown were favorably impressed with Jesus’ gracious words, or surprised. Furthermore it occurred to me, were they surprised that Joseph had a son who had such “gracious words”?

“He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.” (Verses 23 – 24)

But then I read these verses, and I have to wonder if maybe the hometown folk were critical of him; they apparently (Jesus implies) were aware of the miracles, signs, and wonders he had done in other places. And Jesus again implies that they expected him to do such things in his hometown for them.

“But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” (Verses 25 – 27)

It does not seem, beloved reader, that Jesus’ words to the hometown people continued to be “gracious”, at least in their estimation.

“When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.” (Verses 28 – 30)

Consider this carefully, beloved reader, we are presented with varying views and aspects of Jesus Christ through the words and images of the gospel writers. Just as in the case of the Old Testament and the way it portrays the Lord God the Divine, the gospels and the epistles may present a view of Jesus that does not line up with our personal experience. Jesus seemed to be quite angry that the hometown folk did not believe he was the Son of the Divine, and seemed to demand proof of his Divinity. Surely this episode did not happen in a vacuum but was the culmination of Jesus visiting his hometown. Is the Jesus you know this peevish about lack of belief in himself?

The gospel writer portray Jesus, at times, with a vehemence that seems out of character with the Jesus Christ I have experienced personally. I am not sure I have any definitive answers concerning this passage. And I am pretty sure I won’t find the answers in any commentators notes. So I continue to try to discern and understand such passages – some days and times I have more success than others. But that I am sure is that Jesus has vast amounts of patience with authentic and earnest seekers of him. Selah!

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Second Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Gospel Passage – Mothers and Sons – the gift they are to each other

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:1 – 5)

It is my belief that in order to understand these first few verses of this passage, you have to have a visual, or at least a picture in your mind of what is going on. In short, Jesus’ mother is giving him “the look.” That “look” that mothers have when they are silently telling their children to shape up and fly right. Don’t think that because Jesus was/is divine he was immune to the look, or that his mother never used that persuasive device technique on him. Jesus may have protested that it was not the correct time, but when Jesus’ mother instructs the servants to do as Jesus tells them, and the next verse talks about what things Jesus used that were already there, you know “the look” worked.

“Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it.” (Verses 6 – 8)

I don’t know what Jesus reason was that he did not want to show his “divine hand’ just yet. Maybe it was too public a place or he was concerned that the “miracle” that was needed in this situation was appropriate. But it is a mote point in any case; his mother convinced him that the time was here and now.

“When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” (Verses 9 – 10)

I like it that at first it was unknown where the good wine came from. Consider, beloved reader, Jesus could have created inferior wine or mediocre wine, and no one would have thought twice. But he created superior wine, most excellent wine. Why I wonder? Was it because he could do no less? Or was it because he knew his mother expected the best out of him?

“Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” (Verse 11)

Jesus “revealed his glory” not because the Lord God instructed him to, or that the need was life threatening, or because it revealed an aspect of the Divine. No, Jesus did it because his mother asked him to. Mary I am sure was well aware (by this time) that Jesus was the Son of the Divine. And that he had his own heaven-given agenda. But he was also her son. She had nurtured him and guided, and had a strong hand in creating who he was as a man. How do I know this? The Lord God would not have picked her out if she was not suited to this role.

Each family member in families has a special type of relationship within the family group; fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, parents/spouses, and siblings one to another. In choosing my title I did not mean to suggest that mothers and sons have a unique relationship set apart from the rest of the family. Each family member is a gift to the other family members. That is also true in the family of God, so please remember that. However this story gives us a unique view of Jesus and his mother. It functions on more than one level. And it is just a nice heartwarming story.

Beloved reader, may you find your home in the family of God. Selah!

First Sunday After Epiphany 2019 – Baptism of the Lord: The Gospel Passage – The Naming of Jesus by John the Baptist and the Lord God the Divine

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Luke 3:15-17)

As I sit here and ponder this passage (I am moving slowly this evening) I have to wonder how John the Baptist knew these things? As the one who prepared the way, he would have realized that Jesus the Messiah was greater and that he, John, was lessor – so we can set that aside. But how would he have known that Jesus would at some point baptize with the Holy Spirit, and with fire? How would he know that at some point the Lord God would gather up the believers, but dispense the unbelievers? There are two ways (well, maybe three ways) this could be explained. One, the Lord God the Divine could have told John as a part of the total message he was to preach. Two, John and Jesus could have had conversation together as each was preparing for their ministry. Or three, the writer of the gospel of Luke placed this preaching in John’s mouth.

Any one of the three does not diminish the message. If God the sender of Jesus told him, it gives strength to John’s message. If Jesus told him, it means that John was indeed a very vital part of Jesus’ ministry. And if the gospel writer “imbued” John with this message, it is because it became very apparent through the course of Jesus’ ministry. Of course, we could chalk that up to the gospel writer’s perspective of what Jesus was about. But that is true of any of the gospels, and it has been considered before that each gospel gives a slightly different perspective of the Messiah.

“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Verses 21 – 22)

I thought some more about this passage, or more precisely these last two verses. And I am struck by the fact that this occurred at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In the other gospels where Jesus’ baptism is told of, this blessing happens at the time of the baptism; sometimes with a dove and sometimes with a loud voice – here we have both. We could take this to mean that Jesus requesting baptism is the act that the Lord God is proud of. But after pondering I am more inclined to think it is a blessing on Jesus’ entire ministry. Some of the broad stroke details of Jesus’ ministry have been given by John the Baptist; might not those details be accurate and it is also that which the Lord God is proud of?

And what of us? Are we making the Lord God proud? Consider that, beloved reader. Selah!

First Sunday After Christmas Day 2018: The Gospel Passage – The template for being a member of God’s family

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.” (Luke 2:41 – 43)

Bring yourself before the Lord often and regularly. Observe the important days in your faith journey but do not confine yourself to only festival and high holy days. Everyday is special when walking with the Lord.

“Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” (Verses 44 – 46)

Your place of learning faith & belief, worship, and meditation is your home – not your “home away from home” nor your second home, but your primary home. It is the place you journey out from and come back to.

“And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them.” (Verses 47 – 50)

Your faith journey is your own. There may be people who are also on a faith journey, and for a time you may travel with them, learn with them and learn from them – but your faith journey is your own and your Lord God the Divine will guide you.

“Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.” (Verses 51 – 52)

I was very pleased to see that this passage came soon after Christmas. We last saw Jesus as a new born baby in a manager, and glory and honor being according to him. But after the shepherds and the wise men, the escape to and return from Egypt Jesus, Mary, and Joseph settled down to build a live together. You can tell from the passage that large groups of people made regular journeys to Jerusalem; it was not just Jesus and his family. I imagine the events of Jesus’ birth faded into the background and Jesus was just a boy going up. It was events like this (apocryphal scripture has other stories of Jesus’ growing up years; but those are not as verifiable) that probably reminded Mary and Joseph that Jesus was not your “run of the mill” boy. Mary being a ponderer remembered these things and turned them over in her mind. I know how that goes. Day to day activities take up time and thought but in idle moments you think back over things and wonder what their place has in one’s life, and what place they should have in one’s life.

As to my comments interspersed amongst the verses, I wrote them with straight-forth intent. We talk about Jesus as our model and exemplar. The choices Jesus made in his life are choices we can make also. We may not be able to perform miracles as he did, but we can have an active faith life; attending worship services, studying scripture, praying, learning with and teaching others, caring for others, and seeking the Lord God are things we can do with the same devotion that Jesus had. It does not take special skill or abilities. It does, however,k take dedication to a faith-filled life. And a desire to be a child of God. As we move into this new lectionary year, may we chose well. Selah!

Season After Pentecost (Proper 28[33]) – The Gospel Passage: Reflecting on the prediction Jesus Christ makes

As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings! Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”(Mark 13:1 – 2)

When I was in my early teens my parents and I went to visit a old large Catholic church. My mother, having been raised in a strong Anabaptist tradition, was not over impressed. I, however, was entranced. I just could not get enough of it. If someone had said to me that great church will be rumble with not one building stone left on top of another, I probably would not have believed it. Large sturdy buildings seem to be resistant to time and calamity. But we know that powerful forces can level a building. In Jesus’ time, however, that may not have been something that could imagined. And if it did, than it must be because a great disaster had befallen the city and the people in it.

“When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” (Verses 3 – 4)

I am not sure why the disciples thought there would signs of the coming event. Our minds are more likely to assume that it is a natural disaster that many not have any warnings. Jesus’ disciples, it seems, were more likely to see it as an apocalypse with signs and portents. Jesus’ answer is along those lines also.

“Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.” (Verses 5 – 8)

Jesus called them birth pangs – or more precisely the writer/speaker of the gospel of Mark called them such. In fact the transcriber of the gospel of Mark puts a spin on this that makes it sound like the end times. And that Jesus’ disciples would see it coming. But we are at 2000 years beyond this prediction. And rumors of war, kingdom fighting kingdom/ nation fighting nation, earthquakes, and famines have come and gone 100 times over at least. And here we are, still churning along.

Now, there are two choices we can make. We can either adopt the attitude that this prediction has not strength or plausibility to it. Or we can be concerned that as bad as things have been over the last 2000, it is going to get much worse. And the 2000 years of all sorts of mayhem, disaster, and suffering is only a warm up! Kind of sobering when you take it seriously. I for one am going to hold on tight to my faith, and NOT pin my hopes to any earthly structure or formation! Shalom!

Season After Pentecost (Proper 27[32]) – The Gospel Passage: What will you provide to the Lord?

As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” ( Mark 12:38 – 40)

Jesus often accused the scribes, Jewish leaders, Pharisees, and Sadducees of hypocrisy. But such people were not, and are not now, just in the time of Jesus. The mismatch of professed faith and lived action is something that has been around since humanity first succumbed to taking advantage of others. Those who demand honor for themselves should be sure they are worthy of the honor. Such a paradox that those who demand respect treat others with little or no respect. Their appearance does not match what they are truly like. Long prayers that reflect no true devotion to the Divine, combined with taking advantage of others who are in position to defend themselves, is a sure way to be condemned. I have little patient for people who live like that. I think the same could be said of Jesus.

“He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Verses 41 – 44)

Jesus was an avid observer of people. I like that in a Messiah! The widow, who may well have been a victim of the so called religious leaders, balanced her livelihood against the giving to the treasury. And in her wisdom she gave all that she had so that the mission of the synagogue could continue. She did not give because she sought stature but because it was the right thing to do. The rich on the other hand, gave much because it made them look good. The reality was the amount they gave was just a pittance compared to what they had in reserve.

Set this against the early Christian church whose members contributed all they had to those in need so that no one person had more than another, and everyone had what they needed. I suspect much of that attitude and giving started in the lessons such as this that Jesus taught.

The deeper point is that Jesus knew exactly what the widow gave up in giving her little bit. And he also knew exactly how much the rich scribes did not give up. Each person should give according to their means, and how their heart and spirit moves them. Just as important is to make sure the faith you like to make others believe you have matches how you conduct your life. Remember beloved reader, the eyes of the Divine are upon you! Selah!

Season After Pentecost (Proper 27[32]) – The Epistle Passage: The Lord provides!

For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:24-28)

Paul was working very hard, and was really “working it”, in writing to the Hebrews about Jesus position and attributes as the Christ/ the Messiah. Until reading this long series of excerpts from the book of Hebrews I did not realize how long/much Paul wrote on this theme. Of course it may be that because the excerpts from Hebrews in the lectionary are spaced out over several weeks it seems like a long time. Sometimes it seems like Paul gets so few kudos from me, I will account it to his diligence in conveying his message.

The question pops into my mind – what does this mean for us?

For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands . . . “ This means that the redemption, forgiveness, grace, mercy etc that comes from the Lord God Jesus Christ is not confined to any one religion or faith tradition, but is available to all who believe in it and the Divine.

“. . . but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf . . .” This means that Jesus did not just do this as a “mere” mortal but as a gesture undertaken and completed by the Divine.

Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own . . . “ In many faith traditions it is customary to confess and ask for forgiveness over and over; sometimes because the tenets of faith dictate it and sometimes because we need forgiveness anew and again. But Christ completed it for us for all times because of the purity of his sacrifice. WE may need to “confess, repent, repeat” but Christ accomplished it first time out – so actually, now that I think of it, we can “confess, repent, repeat”!

And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Now here Paul gets theological (if he has not already that is!) and rules out some possible faith beliefs. No reincarnation. Each of us will face our judgment day after our earthly life is over. The return of the Lord God Jesus Christ will signal the end of the age – not, make note, to judge. But together up those who still live and believe. In this passage Paul is silent about those who still live but do not believe. Personally I find that lack of comment ominous! Shalom!