God’s foolishness

30 January 2011
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Epiphany 4C (RCL)

Micah 6:1-8
Psalm 15
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Matthew 5:1-12

These lessons all fit together, which is unusual in ordinary time. In Micah, God is entering a lawsuit with God’s people, and calls the moutains and hills to serve as the jury. God reminds them of all that God has done for them, in shorthand. Interesting that the prophet chooses the story of Balak and Balaam. Balak hired Balaam to curse the Hebrews, but Balaam ended up blessing them. Will the curses contained in this book end up as blessing? The people respond, “Well, what do you want from us?” and then comes the lovely expression: Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

In Corinthians, Continue reading “God’s foolishness”

Behold, the lamb of God

16 January 2011
Second Sunday after Epiphany
Epiphany 2A (RCL)

Isaiah 42:1-9
Psalm 40:1-12
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42

Wow! I find myself just saying, “Wow!” about these readings. That may be the extent of my sermon on Sunday.

For starters, the Isaiah passage starts out with military imagary — swords, polished arrows, etc. The prophet, speaking in the person of Israel, knows himself to be God’s chosen servant. God has chosen Israel for God’s purposes in the world, and those purposes, at least as far as Israel can see, are military. Israel is God’s sword, and God’s quiver full of arrows. But, says the prophet, for Israel, “I have spent my strength for nothing.” All of that military might has gotten Israel nowhere, in fact worse than nowhere — Exiled in Babylon. What can God possibly mean that Israel is God’s chosen? Well, God says to the prophet, you have misunderstood. I have chosen you, not just to restore Israel, but the whole world. Continue reading “Behold, the lamb of God”

Behold, my servant

9 January 2011
First Sunday after Epiphany
(Baptism of Our Lord)
Epiphany 1A (RCL)

Isaiah 42:1-9
Psalm 29
Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 3:13-17

I have come to think that each of the Gospels was written and used primarily as baptismal instruction. They were intended to be heard, and all at once. Imagine hearing a Gospel read from cover to cover, while you waited in the dark to be baptized. At the beginning of each gospel is a reference to baptism, and then again at the end (in Matthew, particularly clear — go and make disciples, baptizing). So, as you listened to this, it would begin to dawn on you, this was your story. The spirit came to rest on you. You would be tempted, etc. You would become “christianos” — little christ.

So, those heavenly words are addressed to us: This is my child, my chosen, in whom I am well pleased. Takes us right back to all of the Isaiah servant songs. I have called you in righteousness and kept you. I have given you as a light for the nations, to bring forth justice on the earth. Yikes!

The baptismal community is to shine God’s righteousness to the world. That’s how we live as community, and we bring it about for all. Did any of us ever really think of our baptism in that way? Or was it just a “get out of hell free card”?

What does it mean to be God’s chosen? It’s not always comfortable.