Prudent uses of wealth?

September 22, 2013
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 20C (RCL)
Jeremiah 8:18-9:1
Psalm 79:1-9
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Luke 16:1-13

In the RCL Old Testament track, we’ve been reading passages relating to the history of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel in year C. We are coming to the end of that history. The passage from Jeremiah is God’s response to the siege of Jerusalem. Even after all the warnings of all the prophets, when we would almost expect God to say, “I told you so,” God instead is weeping over the ruin of Jerusalem. The psalm echoes the same events, but as so often happens in the psalms, expressed from the point of view of the people, they begin to seek God’s vengeance on their conquerors. Monotheism requires an answer to the catastrophe of God’s people. If there are many Gods, then catastrophe is easily explained: the God of some other people proved stronger. But if only our God, then why did this happen. The prophets, especially Jeremiah, began groping their way toward a response: God was angry at us because of our sins. The psalms take this a step further and suggest that once we have learned our lesson, and repented of our sins, the God will turn the tables, and punish those whom God used to punish us. Jeremiah, instead, takes the view that God grieves along with God’s people

The Gospel passage is one that people react against. Jesus appears to be approving of dishonesty Continue reading “Prudent uses of wealth?”

Lost sheep

15 September 2013
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 19C (RCL)
Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
Psalm 14
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

Jeremiah’s prophecy for this week is almost unremittingly pessimistic. He does include the line, “Yet, I will not make a full end,” but without any further detail, and it appears to be a later insertion. Jeremiah had good reason for his predictions — he was probably writing between Babylon’s first conquest of Jerusalem, when they made it a client state, and its final destruction. Jeremiah could see the political writing on the wall.

It would be easy, during this time, to take Jeremiah’s pessimism and run with it. We have Continue reading “Lost sheep”

Count the cost

8 September 2013
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 18C (RCL)
Jeremiah 18:1-11
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
Philemon 1-20
Luke 14:25-33

My preaching professor in seminary said if you have a text to preach on that you don’t like, you should begin with your text, depart from your text, and never return to your text — he was joking of course. This is one of those Gospel readings no one likes: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, cannot be my disciple.” Even Matthew didn’t like it — that Gospel changes this pronouncement to “Whoever loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me.” How do we set the pronouncement about hating parents alongside the commandment to honor father and mother?

Commentators try to wiggle out of the shock of this saying. The word “hate” is a bad translation from the Aramaic into the Greek (unfortunately, there is no evidence that Q ever existed in Aramaic). It is intended to be hyperbole. One can find any number of attempts to skirt the difficulty of this saying. This pericope comes just after the parable of the king’s banquet: those invited declined, and so the servant compelled people to come in off the highways and byways. Jesus told that parable in response to someone’s exclamation, “Blessed is the one who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.” The parable suggests that the people eating bread in the kingdom aren’t who we might expect.

The meal context shifts, in the first verse of this passage, to the journey motif Continue reading “Count the cost”