Wrestling with God?

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost; 2 August 2020; Proper 13A (RCL); Genesis 32:22-31; Psalm 17:1-7, 16; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21.

Jacob is about to face the consequences of all his trickery up to this point. He is on his way to meet his brother Esau, and is worried about what Esau might do. He has divided his caravan into two, so that Esau falls on one half and destroys it, the other half might escape. Having sent them all ahead, he wrestles with a stranger at the river’s edge.

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Living in the kingdom

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost; 26 July 2020; Proper 12A (RCL); Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11, 45b; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52.

The wonderful thing about parables is that they are so multivalent. There is not single meaning. We have a string of parables here (and one limiting interpretation to one of them), and then an instruction about how to teach.

The parable of the mustard seed includes a bit of humor. Mustard is a scrappy weed. It is not a well-shaped tree, and at least in some varieties, will take over a field if left alone. And when Jesus says that it provides shelter for the birds of the air, he is comparing it to the cedars of Lebanon, a majestic tree, often used as a symbol for empire in the Old Testament.

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The yoke of law

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost; 5 July 2020; Proper 9A; Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67; Song of Songs 2:8-13; Romans 7:15-25a; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30.

What a mish-mosh of readings for this Sunday! If some stranger walked up to me in the town square and put a gold ring in my nose, I’m not really sure how I would react. I might think he though I was a cow. Different times. And then we get Paul’s schizophrenic rant on the law. And Jesus offering an easy yoke.

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Sacrifice

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost; 28 June 2020; Proper 8A (RCL); Genesis 22:1-14; Psalm 13; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:40-42.

I have assiduously avoided choosing this passage from Genesis at Easter Vigils, because it is so troubling. But it comes up in the Sunday lectionary once every three years, so we have no choice but to deal with it. Interestingly, this is the only recorded dialog between Abraham and Isaac. It certainly would have left a lasting impression on the lad.

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I’ve come to bring a sword

Third Sunday after Pentecost; 21 June 2020; Proper 7A (RCL); Genesis 21:8-21; Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17; Romans 6:1b-11; Matthew 10:24-39.

Aren’t we supposed to love an honor parents? Seems like that’s in the law somewhere. So, what does Jesus mean that whoever loves mother or father more than him is not worthy of him? What does he mean that he has not come to bring peace, but a sword?

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Proclaiming a new empire

Second Sunday after Pentecost; 14 June 2020; Proper 6A (RCL); Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7; Psalm 116:1, 10-17; Romans 5:1-8; Matthew 9:35-10:23.

Jesus sees the crowds and has compassion on them, because they are like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew is quoting the book of Numbers (27:17), when Moses worries that, after his death, the people will be like sheep without a shepherd, so God appoints Joshua (Jesus in Greek) to lead the congregation. In this passage, Jesus passes that commission on the the apostles.

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Spirit in the material world

The Feast of Pentecost; 31 May 2020; Pentecost A (RCL); Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:25-35, 37; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 20:19-23.

When this shelter-in-place all started back in March (March 22, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, was our first virtual service), I though that perhaps my Pentecost, we might be gathering for in-person worship again. That was optimistic. We are still weeks, if not months, away from in-person worship. It has been an event-filled eight weeks so far.

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The glory of gift

The Seventh Sunday of Easter; Easter 7A (RCL); Acts 1:6=14; Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36; 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11, John 17:1-11.

Chapter 17 of John’s Gospel has been called Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. In it, he consecrates himself to God on behalf of his disciples, and consecrates them to God on behalf of the world. Since John doesn’t actually narrate a ‘last supper,’ this prayer serves as the consecration of himself as ‘the lamb of God’ who takes away the sins of the world, and provides the feast that atones.

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The open door

Fourth Sunday of Easter; Easter 4A (RCL); Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10.

This Sunday is familiarly know as Good Shepherd Sunday, and the Gospel reading is always from the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel. Some years, we actually hear the portion of the chapter in which Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” Not this year. This year, Jesus says, “I am the door.”

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If you had been here

Fifth Sunday of Lent; 29 March 2020; Lent 4A (RCL); Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45.

This is puzzling episode in John’s Gospel. Why does Jesus delay two days? Why does Thomas say, “Let us go die with him?” Is he speaking about Lazarus or Jesus? Why does Jesus grandstand for the crowd? There is so much misdirection in this passage, it will require digging to figure it out.

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