my miscellany

Pentecost 6, 2016 — 26 Jun 16

Pentecost 6, 2016

RCL C Proper 8 Complementary
1 Kings 19:15-16 and 19-21, Psalm 16, Galatians 5:1 and 13-25, Saint Luke 9:51-62

Jesus said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”[1]

Jesus has turned a corner in the Gospel today. As he sets his face to go to Jerusalem, he has taught, and he has performed miracles. Those good deeds and that ministry have led the disciples to perceive him in a new and radiant light. Peter has understood who Jesus is, and he has confessed that Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed one of God. The Transfiguration has revealed Jesus to be the Son of God and the embodiment of the Law and the Prophets. What remains for him to do and to reveal about himself?

Before the Gospel today, Jesus has twice predicted his own death and resurrection. As the disciples grow in understanding who he is, Jesus more deeply and directly reveals how his ministry must end. He tells them that he must be rejected by the religious leaders; he must be killed; and he will rise from the dead. Now that Peter and his disciples know who he is, these are the things that remain in his ministry.

If these things don’t seem like much or anti-climatic, we have some re-orienting to do. Remember how Jesus said that to gain your life, you must lose it? His ministry lives out and exemplifies that truth. We’re just not ready for it. We’re just not able to handle it. But what he says is true. To gain your life, you must lose it.

And so, in the Gospel today, as the time draws near for Jesus to be taken up, as the time draws near for him to lose his life, he resolutely sets his face for the Jerusalem.

Not one of the usual worldly concerns and obligations has a priority over gaining his life. No commitment matches the commitment Jesus has to gain his life: not vindicating oneself, not burying a parent, nor even saying goodbye before setting out on a life-giving journey.

All of these are hard to accept and hard to see. They are like the cross itself, so rough, so hard, and so difficult to accept. They are the instrument to use to make our way toward gaining our life.

We see in Jesus the resolution we need. We see in him the re-orientation we need. That resolution and that re-orientation convey us from here to there, from this life to eternal life.

One person who got from here to there said this: “I never knew what joy was like until I gave up pursuing happiness.” He knew what Jesus knew and what Jesus taught. He knew that to lose happiness is to gain it. He knew that to lose your life is to gain it.

How will this rock-hard, flinty truth work out in your life? For in your life, and in mine, it will work out to the glory of God.

[1] Saint Luke 9:62.

Pentecost 5, 2016 — 19 Jun 16

Pentecost 5, 2016

RCL C Proper 7 Complementary
Isaiah 65:1-9, Psalm 22:18-27, Galatians 3:23-29, Saint Luke 8:26-39

We are about to do something radical. We are about to do something significant. We are about to Baptize three children. And what we do today will have consequences for them, for their families, and for this parish.

The children will come away with a new identity. Their families, including this parish, will come away with new responsibilities. None of us will be exactly the same when all is said and when all is done. We should be ready for that.

The Epistle today leaves little doubt about all the things that are happening today. Saint Paul tells the Galatians that “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”[1]

Rebekah, Jakob, and Katherine will soon leave their old identities behind. No longer are they named Sinner, but they will be named Christ, for they are soon to be his, and his own, for ever. They are Christ, for they are to be clothed with him. Christ will be in front of them—the aim they share in this life. Christ will be beside them—the encouragement they need as they grow and mature, and as they develop more and more like him. And Christ will be behind them—the safety they have when the footing becomes slippery and when they are tempted to slip. He will be there for them.

The Apostle reminds us all that, in virtue of our Baptism into Jesus, we lose those things that distinguish us. We become one with him because he dwells is us, and we dwell in him.

And we who venture to do these things in Christ’s Name need his presence and his love just as they do. For we are promising to conform our ways to his ways not to gain anything from the transformation, but we promise to conform our ways to his ways so that we can be worthy examples of Christ to them and to rear them in the ways that will lead them to life eternal. For they are precious to the Lord, whose promise to them is “the new life of grace”[2] that is the inheritance of every child of God.

[1] Galatians 3:27-29.

[2] BCP, page 308.

Pentecost 4, 2016 — 12 Jun 16

Pentecost 4, 2016

RCL C Proper 6 Complementary
II Samuel 11:26–12:10 and 13-15, Psalm 32, Galatians 2:15-21, Saint Luke 7:36–8:3

The Lessons today give us portraits of three sinners. Two are serious sinners, and the third resembles ordinary sinners. All sin harms the sinner and wounds God. Most sin, also, wounds a human victim. What way forward lies within our reach?

The first sinner is King David in the Lesson from Second Samuel. Part of David’s serious sin involves his difficulty seeing himself in the story Nathan the Prophet tells him. David cannot see himself as the rich man who takes a poor man’s little ewe lamb, a lamb who is more like a daughter than a pet. David’s sin is encased in a striking oblivion, an unawareness that is breath-taking.

What David has done is this. He has espied a woman he desires. He gets her with child, and then, using power as King, he engineers her husband’s death in battle. But still he doesn’t immediately identify with a rich man who takes a poor man’s lamb.

The second great sinner in the Lessons is the woman in the city who shows great love to Jesus as he dines with Simon the Pharisee. Her great love shown to Jesus measures her great sin. And, as Jesus signals in his parable about the forgiveness of a debt of five hundred denarii and the forgiveness of a debt of fifty denarii, the great love she shows measures the great forgiveness she knows she will receive from Jesus.

As oblivious as David is about the seriousness of his sin, so aware is the woman about the seriousness of her sin and the forgiveness her sin requires.

The Lessons today give us all-star sinners. But Simon the Pharisee, so rigorous in keeping the law, so unforgiving of Jesus as he allows the woman to show her great love, has not great sin, but he displays the sin of not thinking well of someone else, someone different, someone with another set of values or tastes. Who can claim never to have done that?

These three portraits show varying degrees of sin and varying degrees of awareness of that sin. My preachment to you (as it is to myself) calls for all of us to become more aware of our sin and more aware of the damage it does to us, to God, and to the human victims. I invite you daily to ask the forgiveness of God for the sins you know and the sins you don’t know, sins known and unknown. If you do this, your journey to forgiveness will be that much shorter. You will know firsthand the truth of the Psalm today: “Great are the tribulations of the wicked; * but mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord.”[1]

[1] Psalm 32:11.

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