Finding the Lessons

The latest blog post will be the bible study for the next week. Scroll down to find the bible study for the lessons closest to the upcoming Sunday. The blog will be labeled with proper, liturgical date, and calendar date. Enjoy.

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Proper 9A/Ordinary 14A/Pentecost +4 July 6, 2014

Quotes That Make Me Think


"It is not that Jesus invites us to a life of ease. Following him will be full of risks and challenges, as he has made abundantly clear. He calls us to a life of humble service, but it is a life of freedom and joy instead of slavery."

Commentary, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30, Elisabeth Johnson, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2011.

"In the end, I am tempted to the same kind of apathy and indifference as the people in Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida. The problems are too big, too complicated, other people don't seem to be as bothered as I am, so why don't I get on about my business and fish?"

"Are You Paying Attention, Capernaum?" Tod Weir, Bloomingcactus, 2011.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from Textweek.com

Prayer


To the childlike, O God, you reveal yourself, and on those who are meet and humble of heart you bestow the inheritance of your kingdom.  Set our hearts free from every burden of pretension and refresh our weary souls with the teaching of Christ, that with him we may shoulder the gentle yoke of the cross, and proclaim to everyone the joy that comes from you. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.


Some Thoughts on Matthew 11:16-30

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

There are several sections to this reading; and in fact many will only read portions of the whole series.
The first section begins with the end of a discourse on John the Baptist (11:16-19). The second section is made up of a prophecy of "woe" (11:20-24). Then we have a series of praises to God for his revelation (11:25-30).

We know that John is Jesus precursor, that he decreases as Jesus influence and power increases, and we know that John's career runs parallel with Jesus. This framework gives way in the end to our text today wherein it is clear that Jesus' work and mission is not being responded to and our verses this Sunday offer a key crossroads for the community. (Allison & Davies, Matthew, vol 2, 294ff)
16“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 17‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
For those hearing Jesus they have a decision to make will they follow Jesus or John the baptist. For those hearing Matthew's Gospel there is some question as to whether they will follow Jesus or the old ways of their community. For us today we stand at a perpetual crossroads in our daily life, in our communications, and in our relationships wherein we are challenged to follow Jesus.  We are not given a utilitarian outlook on life when we choose to follow and love Jesus. We are changed by the Gospel and changed by those whom God embraces.  When we embrace and choose the path of Jesus we are choosing a more difficult yet very interesting road.

The next section is a prophecy from Jesus about what happens when we do not respond.
21“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.”
The last section is a section that deals with a thanksgiving to God for revelation. I found it interesting in Allison and Davies commentary to read these words, "...11:25-30 is a capsule summary of the message of the entire gospel."  This passage is as important a text as John 3.16 - famously known as the Gospel in miniature: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.."

In this passage Jesus is clear:
  1. He is the one who is responsible for revelation to the family of God who are in their infancy growing into the discipleship community they were created to be.
  2. He is the meek and humble one (fulfilling the sermon on the mount's blessings) - he is the servant of Israel; he is the Messiah.
  3. He is the embodiment (the Word made flesh) of both the law (he is the righteous one) and wisdom (he is the revealer).
  4. He has come to make know and to act out the perfect will of God, "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
It is interesting how our 1928 Book of Common Prayer, and our Rite One service use these two passages together.
They both reveal to us who Jesus is and who we are called to be. His message is profoundly different than that of the baptist; it is for both the old and the new Israel. In this manner we remember the mosaic motif of the evangelists words in describing Jesus and his ministry. He is the one who reveals God's holy law to us and it is similar to the law revealed by moses and it is given to us on a mount not unlike Moses' own delivery. Jesus, like Moses continues the tradition of righteousness and wisdom inherited from the great mosaic tradition. Matthew is clear Jesus is the living word that revealed to Moses the law; now in the flesh he fulfills it. But the new Israel is an expanded version of the old. There is more to it, not in that it is new to God, but rather that it is new to us. In Jesus the purposes of God are more fully revealed. We are to learn and study that with Jesus provides for us but we are to be meek as we become more fully aware of this revelation and we are to be transfigured and transformed by our experience of this revelation.
Not unlike the Matthean Gospel in miniature we are to live out the revelation of Jesus Christ and become the discipleship community creation was intended to bring forth.We are to be servants of all if we are friends of Jesus. We are the meek. Our lives and relationships are to be different than those around us for the purpose of God's revelation. The words we receive we are to proclaim and enact for others, receiving the weary, carrying their heavy burdens, giving others rest. We are to take Jesus' yoke and to learn and while being humble and gentle we are to help others find rest for their souls.


"The tone of these chapters is reflective, meditative. Yet, no portion of the epistle is more challenging to understand than these four chapters."

Commentary, Romans 7:15-25a, Marion L. Soards, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2008.

"Paul's dilemma is the human dilemma -- all of us struggle in the battle between good and evil, right and wrong choices, thoughts and actions."

"The Blame Game," Bill O'Brien, The Christian Century, 2005.

So lets take a look at Romans.  Paul has been setting up this conversation over the last two readings and today it becomes a bit clearer to understand if not a bit more difficult to undertake.  There are essentially two ways of being in the world.

The first way of being is the old way. This is the way of the law.  The problem with the law is that because of sin humans are constantly breaking it. In point of fact humans cannot keep the law fully; the only thing that one can expect for sure from a life lived by the law is a life of sin and continuity in its breaking.  What this means is that humanity is therefore dependent upon God to help reconcile them.  This dependence comes from the understanding that without God's intervention humanity, a community of law breakers, will have no spiritual life upon their death.

The second way of being in the world is the way provided by God in Christ Jesus.  This other way of making our way in the world is attained through the sacrament of baptism, where in we participate in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  By doing so we have life in Christ Jesus.  This new reality formed in the grave and redeemed means that upon our death we too will be raised like Jesus.  The craziness is that after baptism death brings life - instead of simply death.

Paul then explains that the problem here is not the law itself - important to understand - but it is humanity who is at fault.  Here is how it works.  Humans live in constant tension between their action and their inner self - the mind or will.  Humans desire good and to be good; they desire to live by he law.  As creatures we are created to live by God's ways explains Paul.  YET, and it is a big yet, humans understand that what they do is not what they will to do. There are many things you can will yourself to do and still fail to do them.  I bet you and I could come up with several things right now on our list of "I will do but don't do."  This is sin - that I do the things I do not wish to do - no matter how hard I will it.  Paul says this is sin.  You and I can will ourselves to obey God but in the end we just aren't very good at overcoming the sin that is in us.

This is a key element in theology because what it offers is that humanity is not going to get better - we are continually going to be at war with ourselves and one another. We will do things we should not do and we will leave things undone which we should have done. We will hurt others, hurt ourselves, and even allow others to hurt others on our behalf.  

We might well remember that this does not negate our action to try and be different; this does not negate our response to God's grace, love, and mercy.

Paul is highlighting for us that we are utterly dependent upon God to save us. We are dependent upon God in Christ Jesus to forgive us. We are dependent upon God to be a power greater than ourselves to restore order and sanity into our lives. Our response to this sorry state of affairs and God's salvation is true gratitude.

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