Places of honor

1 September 2013
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 17C (RCL)
Jeremiah 2:4-13
Psalm 81:1 10-16
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14

Much of the teaching in Luke’s Gospel takes place at a meal. This reflects Luke’s awareness of and participation in the culture of his day. Most of Plato’s dialogs take place at meals. It was a standard cultural form: banquet and symposium. Those who could afford it went to dinner parties, and then after all the food and entertainment were out of the way, the conversation would begin, lubricated by judicious application of wine. Topics of conversation included love, manners, philosophy, poetry — any number of things. The task of the leader of the symposium was to keep the conversation flowing.

In the Gospel reading for today, we have a standard trope of table conversation: how to avoid being shamed at a dinner party. Continue reading “Places of honor”

Bent over

25 August 2013
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 16C (RCL)
Jeremiah 1:4-10
Psalm 71:1-6
Hebrews 12:18-29
Luke 13:10-17

This passage from Luke is not one we have read liturgically until the switch to the Revised Common Lectionary. It’s always refreshing to read something new. At first glance, this seems like a simple little story, without much to commend it a place in Luke’s narrative other than the escalating conflict with the synagogue officials. Yeah, so Jesus healed someone: what’s new about that?

In the Gospels, there are several accounts of healing on the sabbath which get Jesus in trouble with the authorities Continue reading “Bent over”

The signs of the times

18 August 2013
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 15C (RCL)
Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:1-2, 8-18
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

The rhetorical force of the opening sentence in today’s Gospel comes through far clearer in the Greek than the English. I better translation would be, “Fire I have come to cast on the earth.” The syntax emphasizes the word “fire.” Not a happy reading. The people who study Q (the material common to Matthew and Luke) tell us that this comes from the second phase of Q’s composition: after a period of initial optimism that their radically inclusive table fellowship would transform society, the Q-people were discouraged, and began to call down fire on those who wouldn’t hear their message. In the third and final stage of composition Continue reading “The signs of the times”

Incorruptible purses

11 August 2013
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 14C (RCL)
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Psalm 50:1-8, 23-24
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Luke 12:32-40

Isaiah dives right in to his prophecy against the people. In the verses we leave out, speaking for God, the prophet laments that God’s children don’t recognize their parent. But at least, says the prophets, God has not left us quite as desolate as Sodom. Jerusalem still exists like a hut in a vineyard. And then come the verses we have in our reading. Interestingly, the sins of Sodom, to which the prophet compares the sins of Jerusalem, have more to do with injustice, with a failure to redress the wrongs done to the widow and orphan, than with the sins we usually associate with Sodom. All of our religious worship Continue reading “Incorruptible purses”