Mulberry trees

3 October 2010
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 22 C

Lamentations 1:1-6
Lamentations 3:19-26
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

This Gospel reading smacks us in the face with our “unworthiness”. We are to be like uncomplaining slaves, right? Just do what you’re told, and don’t expect any praise. It’s unfortunate that we cut off the beginning of the reading. vv. 1-4 read: “He said to his disciples, ‘Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times, saying “I am sorry,” you should forgive him.'” Then comes, “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.'”

In Luke’s Gospel, Continue reading “Mulberry trees”

What is yours?

19 September 2010
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 20C (RCL)

Jeremiah 8:18 – 9:1
Psalm 79:1-9
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Luke 16:1-13

This passage from Luke’s Gospel always provokes comment. How could Jesus tell a story in which (by extension) he appears to approve shady conduct? Commentators through the ages have contorted themselves to make sense of it. Even Luke attaches a number of different possible interpretations to the parable: the children this age are more shrewd that the children of light; make friends for yourselves by dishonest wealth; whoever is faithful in a little will be faithful in a lot. Which is it?

The question that strikes me is, “If you have not been faithful in what belongs to another, who will trust you with what is your own?” Continue reading “What is yours?”

Seeking the lost

12 September 2010
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 19C (RCL)

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
Psalm 14
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

Jeremiah wrote his prophecies near the end of the southern kingdom. He was seeking to explain why God, who had at one time been seemingly so good to Judah, should now turn and bring evil on them. Of course, we would say God had nothing to do with it — it was all just geo-politics. But Jeremiah was trying to fashion a working monotheism. If there was only one God, the same god for all nations, then when one nation conquered another, it must be God’s will. If there are many gods (for each nation), then disaster just means that one god has gained ascendancy in the divine council. But Jeremiah has to struggle to find a monotheistic solution. Now, we have an understanding of a God who enters human affairs, not just on the side of the victorious, Continue reading “Seeking the lost”

Count the cost.

5 September 2010
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 18C (RCL)

Jeremiah 18:1-11
Psalm 139:1-5, 13-17
Philemon 1-21
Luke 14:25-33

What hard lessons! In the Jeremiah passage, we are told that God is designing evil against us (against Israel). In Luke, we are told that if we don’t hate father and mother, sister and brother, wife and children and even life itself, we cannot be Jesus’ disciples. What are we supposed to do with this?

In Luke’s time, being a disciple of Jesus could be costly. The synagogue had anathametized anyone who confessed Jesus the Christ. So, if you were a Jew, following Jesus could certainly mean losing your connections to family and community. There are places in the world where this is probably still true today, but certainly not for most of the folks in the pew on Sunday here. In fact, we make it part of our preaching to love mother and father, sister and brother, wife (or husband) and children. So, let’s ask instead, “What does it cost us to be christian?”

Continue reading “Count the cost.”