Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Psalm Passage Passage – Sending out praise of the Divine

Seeker: “Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise.” Preacher: It is good to make a joyful noise unto the Lord God. It is one of the oldest spiritual disciplines that have been practiced. Noticing in each day what has given you joy. Of course the other half is noticing what has caused you sadness. But today, we are praising the Divine!
Seeker: “Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.”
Preacher: Most often this time of reflection is done at the end of the day, thinking back over the day and taking note of the important times and events. In a way all of creation does this at day’s end.
Seeker: “All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.” Selah”
Preacher:
In the morning when the sun rises, all things are new and full of possibilities. But at day’s end, we know how the day has fared, and how we have fared in our day; where we have felt close to the Lord . . . and where we went astray. These time’s of reflection are when we can see what the Divine has done for us, and how the Divine helped us through our day.
Seeker: “Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.”
Preacher: So even if there has been desolation and sorrow in our day, we can know that the Lord God was there with us.
Seeker: “He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There we rejoiced in him,
who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations– let the rebellious not exalt themselves. Selah”
Preacher: Sometimes our Lord God is even more evident in the hard times than in the times of ease. When we are tested, that is when the Lord God holds us firmly; the strength of the Divine is most evident in our weakest of times.
Seeker: “Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.” (Psalm 66:1-9)

Preacher: Selah!

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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!

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Epistles Passage – Knowing what you should believe in and why

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

The Revised Common Lectionary sets verses 1 to 6 in parenthesis, which means that it is acknowledge as accompanying the passage that the RCL is actually focused on. Often the RCL will do this when the periphery passage in some way pertains, proceed/follows, or explain/sets the context for the focus passage. Often times this “extra” passage has interesting things in it as well. For example “For all must carry their own loads”; everyone should be responsible only for themselves. Not correcting another or judging another (although Paul sometimes seems to hold that privilege for himself) or getting into another’s business (ditto). This must refer back to the “spirit of gentleness” that one must use in restoring the one detected in a transgression. (Is Paul gentle?)

The other verse I take note of is “Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.” I could (but did not) look up what the biblical commentators say about this. That is, which way the sharing goes; the taught to the teacher, or the teacher to the taught. Think about it, beloved reader, because there is a difference. I believe the desired direction is that the teacher shares with those who are taught the good things – the benefits and blessings of the teachings. I am not sure if the verses that follow (that is the ones the RCL wishes to highlight for this day) are indicative or illuminating of that verse.

“Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.” (Verses 7 – 8)

Paul would say one good thing is “eternal life”, and one’s teacher teaches accountably (that is, “sow to the Spirit”) then both the teacher and the taught attain that. But Paul is not talking just of teachers but (perhaps) exemplars too.

“So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up.
So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” (Verses 9 – 10)

The “family of faith” – who is your family of faith beloved reader? We talk of faith circles, fellowship of believers, churches, etc. Are these all names for the “family of faith”? I believe so. Where then does the family start and end? If we have a “large” family, then we have plenty of work to do. And “good work.” Notice though Paul includes “the good of all” , not just the family of faith.

“See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand!” (Verse 11)

Let me see if I can explain this. It is thought that Paul used a secretary to write some of the letters, or gave broad outlines of what was to be written. The secretary would then write the letter as if it came straight from the hand of Paul. The readers might have been aware of this. But when the letters are large, it was indicative that Paul was writing it himself, his thoughts and theology alone.

“It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised–only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh.” (Verses 12 – 13)

Evidently it was preaching that the Christ’s death was what saved (and the only thing that saved) someone resulted in persecution. By pressing the issue of being circumcised they satisfy the rules of Judaism and the law. They (those who teach and pressure the Gentiles on the issue of circumcision) do not obey the law themselves, but they make every appearance that they force the law on others. This statement may be why Paul wanted it clear that he was saying this, and that the Galatians can trust that circumcision was not necessary for Christian faith and salvation.

“May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! As for those who will follow this rule–peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” (Verses 14 – 16)

I could have added to the title of this “and how to live it out”, but I did not. First, Paul is talking about faith issues and where one’s hope of salvation and eternal life is. Yes, he talks about work and good work, and teaching well and sowing in the Spirit. But these come from faith, and are not actions. Let us first get our faith beliefs aligned, then we can see what we should do with them. Selah!

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Old Testament Passage – Knowing where and with whom you should be

Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her– that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom.” (Isaiah 66:10 – 11)

The more I looked and studied this passage, the more it seemed like a praise passage. Sometimes the writer of Isaiah has dark and disturbing words and warnings. Other times the writer of Isaiah lifts the spirit and soul – those are the types of writings I like! Jerusalem suffers a good deal in the bible. Being raided and taken over; being razed and dismantled. The called and chosen people considered it their spiritual, if not literal, home. Many Jews still say, “Next year I will be in Jerusalem.” The middle east is now hotly contested land, with several races and cultures trying to claim dominance. To be honest, beloved reader, I am not sure who has rightful claim. What I do know is that both in the Old and New Testament there is the admonition for gentleness and welcome. And it is that gentleness and welcome that nurtures and lift the soul and spirit.

“For thus says the LORD: I will extend prosperity to her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse and be carried on her arm, and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” (Verses 12 – 13)

Jerusalem is often used as the symbolic name of a spiritual home. In the New Testament there is much mention of the “new Jerusalem” It would seem that the more Jerusalem was oppressed and abused, the greater the hope for a “new Jerusalem.” The New Testament images it as the place where the disciples/apostles might rule with Jesus and the Lord God. Others say New Jerusalem will geographically be elsewhere. I prefer to believe that New Jerusalem will be a new way of living and relating to one another – a new mindset. But, beloved reader, what ever one’s image is . . . it seems we much wait for it.

“You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bodies shall flourish like the grass; and it shall be known that the hand of the LORD is with his servants, and his indignation is against his enemies.” (Verse 14)

I always have to wonder, who are the enemies that the Lord God the Divine is against? And I have to worry about the “us” and “them” mentality. Because just as I am not sure who is most deserving of the geographical place we call Jerusalem now, I am also loathe to declare who is with the “us” and who is the “them” that we are supposed to be in opposition with? Because, if there is only one “New Jerusalem” and all that belief in the Divine assume they are going to be there . . . we might be very surprised who we see, and who sees us! Selah!

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Psalm Passage – The blessings of a life changed

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.” (Psalm 16:1 – 3)

I am weary, beloved reader, but it is a good weary. I have been doing a lot of “kitchening” which what I call being in the kitchen preparing food and cleaning up after my food preparations and others who have been in the kitchen. I did some preparatory work for supper tomorrow night and made a large bowl of pasta salad which will feed both of my daughters for several days.

What, you may ask, does that have to do with this passage from Psalm? It occurred to me (as I gratefully sat down) it is easy to praise the Lord when you have done good work for yourself and your family with the provisions that you have been able to get. I do not want to say that the Lord God has “blessed” me/us in that way . . . . because it makes it sound as if we have deserved special privilege that others have not. It is more accurate to say happenstance has conformed itself in a way “pleasing” to our existence. All people are deserving and worthy of what we have been able to afford. But not everyone is able to. I feel it is wrong to assume that it is me/my family’s due. And that is not the basis that I bless the Lord God. It is that I have been able to make the preparations and make plans for my family. I praise the Lord God because my strength, endurance, and skill in the kitchen has made it possible. Yes I am tired, but it is a good tired that was gained on behalf of my family.

And I like to think that the “holy ones in the land” work on behalf of others, be it family or strangers. In fact the greater work is to work on behalf of strangers, those who you owe not apparent due or allegiance to.

“Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips.” (Verse 4)

I do not what sort of people the psalmist had in mind when he talks of “Those who choose another god.” Typically in biblical times the “heathen” were not seen a generous or working on behalf of others who were less fortunate and/or without resources. On the other hand, many of the prophets lambaste the called and chosen people of God for not providing for the poor, orphans, widows, and strangers in the land. I would hope the psalmist includes/excludes on that basis also.

“The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.” (Verse 5)

Simple statement – anything and everything I am able and willing to do that is good and noble in my life . . . I owe to the influence and calling of the Lord God the Divine.

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage. I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure.” (Verses 6 – 9)

Ordinary Time. It was an ordinary day today; granted, I accomplished more than I thought it would. In several weeks from now I probably won’t remember the day as anything more than any other day. But today – in this moment – I stop and praise the Lord God for what I was able to do.

“For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit. You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Verses 10 – 11)

And, I praise the Lord God that there will other ordinary but worthwhile days to come! 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 Old Testament Passage – Changes are coming

Then the LORD said to him [Elijah], “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place.” (I Kings 19:15 – 16)

I still remember the preparations I had to make when I was getting ready to leave my job in Indiana; our family was moving west to Oregon. There was only a few weeks to hire someone and train them to take over for me. In may job there was really no “down” or “fallow” season. I tried to do as much advance work as I could, and I tried to write as much stuff down as I could in a training manual. My fear was that I would forget to train the new person on some aspect of my job. Of course eventually I just had to leave the job and hope that things worked out for the new person and the staff I left behind.

“So he set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him.” (Verse 19)

The job I had before the one I left for moving to Eugene was a different experience in training the person. The person who was my assistant was moving into my spot. That was a much more comfortable and easy transition. As my “second in command” she knew the job as well as I did. And I was glad she would have the experience of making the job her own.

“He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” Then Elijah said to him, “Go back again; for what have I done to you?” (Verse 20)

If you remember, there was a story from Jesus’ ministry where a young man was called to follow Jesus but wanted to wait until his parent had passed on before he left them. Jesus was pretty direct in what he thought of that. “Let the dead bury their own” he said. You are not to take this as meaning that Jesus was forbidding him to attend to urgent family business. Jesus knew the young man’s heart and knew that I did not want to leave the comfort and familiarity of his home to go wandering about. But here Elisha is asking to take proper leave of his family so they would know what happened and where he was going. After all, the Lord was telling Elijah to make preparations for his leave taking. Why would he not allow Elisha to say his farewell. Plus Elijah asks the leading question “what do you think my action meant for you?”

“He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.” (Verse 21)

Elisha answered that question by making his own final arrangements, and then going with Elijah. When I found out that my husband had a job offer on the west coast, it took me aback. I realized instantly that it would drastically change the plans I thought I should set in motion. I knew I could look upon this as a call to something new and exciting in my life. Or, I could see it as tearing up my present life (at the time) and mourning that loss. I chose to look forward. That move had so many unforeseen consequences. And the reasons that it was the correct thing has become more and more clear as time has gone on. The Divine was “calling me out” and calling me away from the life I had there . . . . . to something more real and abundant. Yes, there have been losses and change. As our life out here unrolled I could see where Eugene, OR was the place we needed to be.

The funny thing is, beloved reader, I really don’t like change much! I am, in many ways, a “creature of habit”. But at the same time, I like change and growth. So times you need to make changes in order to move forward in life. The other Old Testament passage tells the story of Elijah being taken up, and Elisha fully inheriting his “mantle”; actually, he gains a double share of what Elijah had. How is that for a change!

What I needed to remember and what I pass on to you, beloved reader, is that no matter what change comes about – the Lord God the Divine is still with us, and we with the Divine. And that will never change! Selah!