All Saints’ Day

Sunday 1 November 2014
All Saints’ Day (observed)
All Saints’ A (RCL)

Revelation 7:9-17
Psalm 34:1-10, 22
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12

All Saints’ Day and the beatitudes. One is tempted to say, “Ho hum.” Blessed are the pure in heart — we’re all supposed to be pure in heart, so that we can be saints, right? Those robed in white are they who have come through the great tribulation — the martyrs sing before the throne of God.

When we read the beatitudes, and hear the word “Blessed,” we tend to think of how fortunate those named will be in the future. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is [will be] the kingdom of heaven. In fact, the word makarios is probably best translated, “How honorable.” Continue reading “All Saints’ Day”

Who is the Christ?

26 October 2014
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 25A (RCL)
Deuteronomy 34:1-12
Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Matthew 22:34-46

The reading from Matthew stands at the end of a series of conflicts between Jesus and various groups within the Judean context: Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, Temple authorities. We’ve heard the parable of the vineyard and the – rather unjoyous – wedding feast, and disputes about paying taxes to Caesar, the resurrection and now about the greatest commandment and the lineage of the Messiah. The section ends with a question about whether the Messiah is David’s son or not. With Matthew, this should send us scurrying back to see if we can find the opening parenthesis. Sure enough, back in chapter 21, as Jesus entered Jerusalem, the people were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” The cleansing of the Temple, and all the disputes and parables happen within these parentheses about the lineage of the Messiah. Continue reading “Who is the Christ?”

What is God’s?

19 October 2014
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 24A (RCL)
Exodus 33:12-23
Psalm 99
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 25:12-22

The reading from Exodus seems, on the face of it, very confusing. Three or four times, Moses asks God if he (Moses) has found favor in God’s sight. Unfortunately, we have a truncated version of this episode in our reading, because it would be too long if we included all that was needed. After the episode of the golden calf, God has withdrawn God’s presence from Israel. God has told Moses to take this people up to the promised land, but only and angel of God will accompany them, not the divine self. The narrative is then interrupted to relate how Moses used to go out to the tent and talk to God face to face.

Now, God has withdrawn God’s presence, and Moses refuses to take the people up unless God go with them. Continue reading “What is God’s?”


12 October 2014
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 23A (RCL)
Exodus 32:1-14
Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23
Philippians 4:1-9
Matthew 22:1-14

I don’t like Matthew’s telling of this story. Luke has the same story of a man who gave a wedding banquet, which means the original was likely in the Q source. Luke’s telling of the story makes much more sense. It was expected that the host would send a servant around on the day of the feast to let the guests know that the feast was ready. It also wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary for a guest to have had something come up, and need to be excused. What makes the story (in Luke’s telling) surprising is that all the guests have to be excused. The host is angry and tells the servant to go invite anyone who will come. In this telling, it would be easy for the hearers to see the great stroke of luck for those thus invited.

Matthew makes it into a story of revenge and separation. Continue reading “Conflict”

Fruitful vineyards

5 October 2014
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 22A (RCL)
Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
Psalm 19
Philippians 3:4b-14
Matthew 21:33-46

In Track 2 of the the Revised Common Lectionary, the Old Testament reading assigned is Isaiah 5:1-7. Although we are using Track 1, I think Isaiah 5 is essential background for the parable Matthew tells in this passage. The Wisdom myth of Second Temple Judaism told the story of how God had sent the prophets again and again to the people to correct the people’s way of life, and how the people had killed the prophets and ignored their message, until at last, Wisdom departed the Temple and it was destroyed the first time. Matthew takes this myth and revises it to show that the vineyard will be given over to a new people who will bring forth justice. The Isaiah 5 passage is made to do its work again, equating God’s removal of the wall from the vineyard with the second destruction of Jerusalem. This time, we have the added element of the vineyard being given to new tenants, that is, to the new Christian community. Continue reading “Fruitful vineyards”