Turning the world upside down

November 3, 2013
All Saints’ Day observed
Proper for All Saints’ C (RCL)
Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18
Psalm 149
Ephesians 1:11-23
Luke 6:20-31

I’ve never particularly like Psalm 149, and yet we hear it (and sing it) every year on All Saints’ Day. I’m not sure what I think about the faithful wreaking vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples in general. And even more, it seems to me an odd thing to be associate that with All Saints’. Clint McCann Continue reading “Turning the world upside down”

Life is messy

27 October 2013
Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 25C (RCL)
Joel 2:23-32
Psalm 65
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Luke 18:9-14

On the heels of the parable about the persistent widow, we now have the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, and their prayers. Luke intends both to tell us something about the nature of our relationship to God. In the parable of the widow, God will justify the righteous who call to God day and night. We are to be like the widow and never forget the justice of our case. Even though the world has no reason to pay us any attention, we must stand firm.

The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector qualifies our relationship to the world. While God’s justice may be with us (with the poor and persecuted), and the world is unjust, we may not simply opt out of the world. The Pharisee is reasonably well off — he can afford to tithe on everything he earns. We don’t learn much about the tax collector’s status. But, as seems likely, because he is in the temple, he is one of those poor small-holders who had been taxed off his own land, and turned to collecting taxes from his own neighbors as a way of keeping food on the table. It is unlikely that someone much higher up the food chain (who had paid a handsome sum for the right to collect taxes — as far as Rome was concerned what the “tax farmers” paid covered the liability; if they could collect more, it was theirs) would feel any sense of compunction as displayed by the man in this story.

It is tempting Continue reading “Life is messy”


20 October 2013
Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 24C (RCL)
Jeremiah 31:27-34
Psalm 119:97-104
2 Timothy 3:14 — 4:5
Luke 18:1-8

Again, we have an optimistic oracle from Jeremiah. For all his doom-saying before the fall of Jerusalem, once it was a reality, he changed his tone. Now, he foretells of a time when God will restore the people, and will not need to make a covenant with them like the old covenant, which promised blessings if they obeyed and curses if they disobeyed. Now, instead, God will write the divine law on our hearts, and each of us will suffer the consequences of our own refusals of God’s love, rather than the consequences extending out through the generations. No longer will the mediation of a priesthood be required to teach the community to know the Lord, for we will all know the ways of the Lord. Jeremiah certainly couldn’t have foreseen (in the same way he foresaw the disaster) the return from Exile, but holds out a hope for an ultimate restoration. We are still waiting. Continue reading “Persistence”

Who is the foreigner?

13 October 2013
Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 23C (RCL)
Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
Psalm 66:1-11
2 Timothy 2:8-15
Luke 17:11-19

The passage in Jeremiah presents a bit of a surprise. Throughout the period after Pentecost, in the Old Testament track, we have been reading about the final events of the Kingdom of Judah. The passages we have read from Jeremiah have been particularly pessimistic. As opposed to other prophets at the time, Jeremiah sees no hope for the kingdom: God is not going to protect Jerusalem just because of the Temple. In fact, God is angry because of this misuse of God’s name. The people have sinned and punishment is coming.

Now that the end has come, and the people have gone into Exile, including the artisans (that’s in the verses we leave out), Jeremiah tells them to work for the good of the city of Babylon. Contrast that to Psalm 137, whose author praises those who will eventually overthrow Babylon and dash her little ones against a stone. No such retribution for Jeremiah.

It would be easy enough to understand that the conquered and exiled people would want to draw the boundaries very tightly, maintain the distinctions between them and the conquering culture. Instead, Continue reading “Who is the foreigner?”

Increase our faith

6 October 2013
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 22C (RCL)
Lamentations 1:1-6
Lamentations 3:19-26 (Canticle A)
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

Throughout the “green” season of Year C in the RCL, we have been reading of the approaching last days of the kingdom of Judah. Now, it has arrived. The book of Lamentations is a collections of songs and poems about the destruction of Jerusalem. All the glory is gone and the people dispersed. It is interesting to me that the verses we use as a canticle this morning are so hopeful: your mercies are new every morning. Contrast that to the other option, Psalm 137 – how happy the one who dashes your little ones against a stone. The two options present two widely different responses to catastrophe: one of hopelessness and one of faithfulness and hope.

The parable of the servant presented in this week’s reading from Luke is no one’s favorite. We don’t like the idea of saying, “We are worthless servants; we have only done what we ought to have done.” We want recognition for our good work. Everybody likes an “attaboy” or “attagirl” once in a while.

I think it makes sense to read these verses with the first four verses of the seventeenth chapter of Luke. Jesus Continue reading “Increase our faith”