What an unexpected blessing.

I own a dog, but that doesn’t qualify has being a herdsman. And I nearly fell out of the last tree I was attempting to trim, and I standing on the ground at the time, so being a dresser of sycamore trees is absolutely out of the question. As to writing in the style of another in an effort to continue the proclamation of the Gospel, well, I’m not exactly sure what my style is, and my tendency to free flow, would make epistle writing a risky venture. Therefore, I am off the hook, no drastic prophecies to pronounce to the rival kingdom, and no epistolary expectations.

However, I do live in a community with nefarious divisions. There are ‘false’ teachers proclaiming alternative ways to true living, mostly to do with “I” this or “I” that, and what values each individuals chooses as it fits the moment. And, there are folks who are in a ditch, by accident, by consequences of their own unfortunate choices, and as the results of falling among robbers.  Therefore I am drawn by the parabolic answer to the lawyer’s question “Who is my neighbor?” not only to preach and teach, but also to reach to and off assistance.

I am also taunted by the lawyer’s answer to Jesus’ question “Who was the neighbor?” i.e. “The one who showed him mercy.” Which turns the table, turn the relationship around. As the parable begins it is a (presumably) one from the proper class who falls among robbers. The answer to Jesus’ last question is paraphrased “One of the not so proper class is neighbor.” I.E. proper folk need to be aware of from whom and when they receive the ministrations of the not so proper folks. And as we weave together today’s reading from Luke, and Colossians we begin to understand there is no proper and not so proper the is just folks, so everyone needs to be aware of whom they receive ministry from.

 

Herds and orchards aside, there is some prophetic work to be done. Not so apocalyptic as Amos (I hope), but uncomfortable none the less. Looks like I may be enmeshed in this herding, dresser, epistolary quagmire after all. What an unexpected blessing.

What was that verse I’d not seen before?

We always begin our vestry meetings with a modified form of the African Bible Study, and ‘cause yesterday’s Gospel reading from the daily lectionary is so well know I asked:  What verse have you not seen before? We had a lively discussion.

This morning as I read the appointed passage from 1 Samuel I noticed a phrase I don’t recall, it is response for a lyre player to calm Saul when the evil spirit is upon him.  The tale continues:

 ‘I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is skilful in playing, a man of valour, a warrior, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence; and the Lord is with him.’ So Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, ‘Send me your son David who is with the sheep.’

Just having heard David described as “a man of valour, a warrior, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence,” how does Saul know David is with the sheep?

It’s not the answer that inspires this thought, rather, it is our tendency to read what we know, and not read what the text says.

Moreover, today is the observance of Benedict, and as I read the short history provided by James Kiefer, I noticed the 5 hours a day in reading and study his rules set forth, I began to realize I probably ought to slow down, read, study and listen to the text.

Of course this blog comes when it does as the day started with 8:00 am prayer meeting, followed by Daily prayers, a mid-morning board meeting, a related lunch obligation, thank-yous re Tuesday’s funeral, orders of service, a letter to the bishop generated by last night’s vestry meeting, a few last minute odds and in, and the sudden realization the reminder for the blog didn’t remind. And oh yea, I’ve yet to read commentaries for Sunday.

What was that verse I’d not seen before?

The story around the story.

Perhaps it was the Linked-In conversation about how to respond to questions about unanswered prayer. Perhaps it was my colleague SP’s blog pointing to the lawyer and the word ‘life’ in his conversation with Jesus. Perhaps it was both. In any case I’ve been blessed with a new focus on the over know Good Samaritan story, the conversation between Jesus and the Lawyer. The lawyer is presented as educated and pious. Perhaps he is out to cover his bets, perhaps he has heard enough about Jesus to be curious what-ever, he engages Jesus in conversation:

 

Teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?

What does the Law say?

Love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and your neighbor.

That’s right, go and do it.

But, Who is my neighbor?

Jesus tells the parable of the good Samaritan, ending with the question

Who was the neighbor to the injured man?

The one who showed him mercy.

That’s right, go and do likewise.

 

I know this conversation. I’ve had it, oh I don’t know how many times. Not between me and someone seeking spiritual guidance; no, between me and God.  I know what to do. I just don’t want to do it. Maybe I’m afraid. Maybe I’m embarrassed, or think I’m unprepared, or don’t have the skills, or am aware of the conflict between Godly values, and worldly values; I just don’t want to do it. So I pray for guidance. God answers “Go.”

I don’t want to so I find some objection. God answers “Go.”

 

I am still hesitant.

The reply …….

 

So different, so similar

Yesterday is the scheduled time for lectionary reading and first responses. Life happens and I found myself a part of two death circumstances. One the final preparation for a funeral today of a beloved elderly member of the parish whose has been absent for the past several years. She has been in very poor health in that time; her death was not a surprise, and has an aspect of relief. The other was the sudden unexpected violent death of a young man whom everyone described a delightful, full of life, full of promise, trusting, and never a bad word to say. His death is full of surprise, shock, leaving folk spinning for answers, in some cases to questions still unknown.  I cannot imagine two death experiences more different.

 At the end of the day, picking at a late dinner, mindless sitting through a late evening mystery I began to realize as different as these deaths are, they are similar. Whether with some expectation or rude shock we are challenged by the unknowable mystery of what lies beyond death’s door. As I fumbled through ministering to both sets of mourners I realized my role is much the same – that is to journey with, perhaps as Urban Holmes’ concept of priest as shaman, or as a thin manifestation of the Spirit as Advocate, one who stands with. It’s a role of speaking the truth, “Our beloved is dead.” of pointing away from unhelpful speculations, of pointing to unshakable, though incomprehensible (passing all understanding), truth: the strength and peace of God’s love. Moreover I realized all this is best accomplished by “just showing up.” [1]

 The Dawn has come, and gone; it’s time to show up once again; trusting not in my own limited gifts, rather in God’s mysterious presence.


[1] Woody Allen

The Kingdom of God is near.

Hear my sermon at St. Stephen’s Web site: http://www.saintstephensblytheville.org/sermons-2013.php, (Generally available mid Monday.) or read it below

July 7, 2012 Proper 9
2 Kings 5:1-14
Psalm 30
Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

When we got to our daughter’s there were hamburgers stacked high on gigantic gilded platters, hotdogs stacked like cordwood, mounds of potato salad, deviled eggs beyond counting, and later fireworks brilliantly flare against the darkened night sky. All in all it was a good day, a really good day. I hope you enjoyed your July 4th celebrations; Angie, Marcel, and I did. But, I must say, I think I’ve a bit of Naaman in me at the moment. Not that I see myself as a great man, not that I have some incurable socially debilitating, degenerating disease, not that I have a letter of introduction to a neighboring state leader; nope none of that stuff. It’s rather strangely like Naaman’s behavior after Elisha’s servant, from behind the partially opened door, tells him to wash in the Jordan seven times and he will be cured. Naaman gets angry, he expects the prophet, this [quote] man of God, to come out say some fancy words, make some intricate motions to effect his cure. And that’s the bit, his cure. For Naaman, this is all about “The Great and Powerful Naaman,” when in it truth, it’s all about God. And, at least as I was pondering all this Friday morning, as I struggled to write my blog bit, and the Facebook posting, and two orders, and a sermon, and facing our daughter’s rapidly approaching wedding, it was suddenly becoming all about me. In my experience, that is never a good thing. Oh I recover, but what I do to myself, and what I do to others it’s simply not as it should be.

That realization, jumped over to how we, as church, get on about our role as one of the 35 pairs Jesus sent ahead. When it goes well we are all about “The Kingdom of God.”
When it doesn’t goes as planned, we are about “Woe is us!” “Will we survive this crisis?” and so on. Sometimes we actually get angry at the people Jesus sent us to. We may not say anything to them, but the curious requirements we’re quick to put around benevolence quickly begins to look like vengeance: “You won’t listen to me about God, I won’t help you with food, clothes, housing, gas, medicine and so on. And if someone in our church begins to miss-behave, which, excluding sex and money, really means going to another church, we are, all too often, quick to chide them; because it’s all about us and their going else-where isn’t good for us.

Fortunately for Naaman he is surrounded by a bunch of no named, literally they are not named in the story, people who come to his aid: the Jewish slave girl, the Aramaean king, the unmentioned Jewish courtier who says something to Elisha, (He had to find out somehow.) and finally Naaman’s aides. And the good news is Naaman listens, is healed of his leprosy, and )a couple of verses later) comes to believe in God, so much so he carries two mule loads of dirt home, so he can properly worship God.

Now I know, than none of these unnamed characters are knowingly evangelist, but you’ve got ta acknowledge their actions, by hook or by crook, proclaimed to Naaman The Kingdom of God has come near you. and he got the message. And that is my vision for us. No – no, not for us to be unknown evangelists, and certainly not to be unaware evangelists, but to be those who whenever we meet someone be it a welcoming interaction, or a flat out rejection, lets it be known that “The Kingdom of God has come near you!” When Jesus sends those 70 out into a hostile world he tells them what to do when they are welcomed, and what to do when they are rejected, and both sets of instructions include saying “ The Kingdom of God has come near you!”

As I mentioned, I know what it is like to get sucked into that Naamanesque [quote] it’s all about me! mindset. I also know what it’s like for congregations to fall into the same [quote] It’s all about us! behavior. Now, we do not have a cast of unnamed aides to guide us as Naaman did. WE have something better, we have Paul, and he does share a bit of wisdom, with the Galatians, that seems to combat Naamanqesque quite nicely. Note, Paul is speaking about new members who fall under the influence of those preaching a corrupt Gospel. But what he writes applies to prophets, priests and kings, apostles, disciples, missionaries, evangelist, and just plain ordinary people of God, trying to go on ahead of Jesus.
         First,
             be gentle,
                 judgment is God’s work;
         then be careful you are not tempted,
             take care of each other;
        test yourselves;
        do not grow weary in doing what is right;
        work for the good of all;
        boast of nothing except Jesus the Christ;
        and finally, always remember
             that there is no divine division
                 among God’s people,
                 everyone is a new creation.

Do these seven little things and God’s peace and mercy will be upon you, and you will be a living sign that “the Kingdom of God is near!”

 

lectionaryscripturenotes.com http://www.lectionaryscriptureno tes.com/
Proper 9 | Ordinary Time 14 | Pentecost 7, Cycle C

episcopaldigitalnetwork.com
http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2013/06/13/7-pentecost-proper-9-c-2013/
7 Pentecost, Proper 9 (C) – 2013
By the Very Rev. Antho ny F. M. Clavier

cep.calvinseminary.edu http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php
This Week at the Center for Excellence in Preaching
Next sunday is July 07, 2013 (Ordinary T ime)
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20, Scot t Hoezee
2 Kings 5:1-14, Scot t Hoezee
Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16, Stan Mast
Psalm 30, Doug Bratt

workingpreacher.org
http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1685
2 Kings 5:1-14, Karla Suomala
Galatians 6:[1-6]7-16, Sarah Henrich
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20, Michael Rogness

… twice before …

Well I have started this twice before.  However, with yesterday’s festivities, today’s news from Egypt, the realization my oldest is getting married in 19 days, a funeral on the horizon, Sunday’s Order of Service and sermon to do, the healthy delta lunches effort, and the week to week humdrum of life and ministry none of it seems so relevant.

Except for Jesus’ words proclaim the Kingdom of God has come near.

Gracious Lord, by your Holy Spirit, may all that I say and all that I do proclaim that your Kingdom is near.

Let us not grow weary in doing what is right.

It was intention to ponder the appointed read from Galatians for Sunday. And then the Old Testament reading from the Daily Office (1Samuel 12:1 ff) grabbed my attention.  Samuel pronounces Israel’s sin in choosing a King to serve over them, in God’s place. Yet, his pronouncement is not without hope for he also says: ” … do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart … for the Lord will not cast away his people. It seems particularly  relevant given tomorrow is July 4th.

And then the reading from Luke (23:1 ff) the story of Pilate and Herod passing Jesus back and forth like some intriguing persona or political hot potato, both ignoring Roman Law (or so I an told) grabbed my attention.

Both stories raise the specter of the 1st clause of the 1st Amendment to our Constitution:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”  I am frustrated that we have misinterpreted that to mean “separation of church and state” because it is silent as to citizens bringing religious values into political dialogue and processes.  I am also angered when elected official proclaim biblical values in some political debates, and then blatantly ignore the teachings of their own church in others as they promote policy based on writing of avowed atheist.

So, I am frustrated and offended. The calling is to call people into the transforming presence of God in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit. The calling is to remind people we can not mess it up fatally bad. It is as Samuel said “God will not cast away his people.” It is as Paul wrote: “What will separate us from the love of God? … nothing.

It now seems this reflects Sunday’s reading from Galatians after all. Paul writes: “Let us not grow weary in doing what is right.”

So, offended – yea, frustrated, yea, but weary – never, one way or another, know or unknown God’s strength is with us.

JST+