Let’s just take care of each other

A Sermon for Epiphany 3; Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a, Luke 4:14-21

It has been a strange week. Not so much my schedule, which did include 2 most all-day trips to Jonesboro; more than the trips the news seemed strange. I’d expected it to be all about the shutdown, instead the news was all about the revised, revised, revised version of the Confrontation on the Mall. You know the ever-changing story of the confrontation between a group of Black Hebrew Israelites, white teenage boys, and a Native American Elder. The learning bit for me was an opinion piece exploring the role of social media in inflaming a complex social interaction. David Brooks notes how social media:

  • rewards spreading the viral soap operas that are supposed to reveal the dark hearts of those who are in the opposite social type from your own
  • reduces the complexities of human life into one viral moment and
  • confirms our negative stereotypes of people we don’t even know

Brooks sees the danger in social media being the tail wags the mainstream media dog (Brooks, Destroy Lives). More than the event itself I was concerned about the seemingly reckless race to be first on social media, accuracy and the people involved don’t matter, just the clicks produced matter. But my concern didn’t stay there long

There was a story on NPR about the resurgence of Black Lung disease. Black Lung affects coal miners and is caused by breathing in the ever-present coal dust. It is debilitating, men who work for decades in the mines can no longer cut their own yards, or water their gardens. It is always a horrible death. It is the results of the mining companies’ not caring about the miners; as one said, They don’t care if you live or die, that’s the truth of it (NPR). This is just another example of our emphasis on the value of the commodity, and I’m sure it is coal and not human labor that is the commodity of concern. And since coal still produces about 30% of electricity in the US we bear some responsibility as we gain some benefit (TOXMAP FAQ).

Of course, the never-ending story of the shutdown of the Federal Government was never far behind. 800,000 thousand were either furloughed or forced to work without pay. As these worker citizens approach missing their 2nd paycheck, pressures mount. There is no money for house notes or rent, food, medication, daycare, children’s birthday presents, or the gas to drive to work. The President and cabinet members appear clueless, saying they don’t understand the problem. At the same time, the lack of services, these citizens workers provide, are impacting people. Flights are being delayed as air-port controllers, and TSA agents can no longer work without pay. In NW Arkansas the Federal Grand Jury meeting was canceled. Home sales are not closing because USDA and FHA offices are closed. Investors are less informed of the economic conditions because the usual and customary reports are not being produced. Projects cannot get started because permits are not available. Families living in assisted housing are at risk of eviction because Housing Authority and related funds are not available. It is pretty safe bet the lives of these worker citizens, or the everyday consequences isn’t a fundamental concern.

After I thought I was done, there was another surprise, a deal to open the government for 3 weeks (until Fed 15) was signed late Friday. It includes provisions for employees to be paid. It makes no provision for contract employees. I could not find any mention of what happens if a border security bill is not agreed to or passed. I suspect the growing delays at US airports put mounting pressure on everyone to give a little, I am yet to be convinced the lives of all citizen workers, employees, and contractors, or the everyday consequences, was a determining factor, for the President, or Congress.

Now we all know the shutdown, and its consequences, is happening because of the disagreement of how to manage immigrants, legal and/or illegal, crossing the US southern border. No one is talking about the risk of illegal immigration across our Northern border with Canada. Illegal immigration from Canada is up 64% from last year. Now it is a different problem. Those entering the US from Canada usually enter the country legitimately and then just don’t go home. A lot of it comes down to ignorance, naivete or love, Canadians lead all other nations in people who overstay their legal time here; 100,000 outstayed their legal welcome in one year. The Department of Homeland Security considers Canadian illegals to be a significant problem. Yes, it is true those who enter the US across our Southern border tend to sneak into the U.S. without any documentation. That may account for the significant difference in the political concern and media coverage. But there is the racial difference, those coming across our northern border tend to look like us; those who cross our southern border do not (Blackwell; Common).

And then Thursday it all came together. I read an article about Harvard classmates William James and Josiah Royce. James, as you might remember, is a philosopher whose ideas about a good life continues to be influential. Royce’s not so much. James grew up among the Boston elite; Royce was a child of 49ers who didn’t find gold and lived in squalor. James’ work was pragmatic in search of the empirical; Royce was an idealist, who sought the abstract and spiritual. James believed in tolerance; we live in a pluralistic society and should give each other the social space to thrive. Royce believed the good life is found in tightly bonding yourself to another, in giving yourself away, with others, for a noble cause. He acknowledges we are born into a world of causes, and he admired causes based on mutual affection. He saw that underneath different communities is an absolute unity to life, a spiritual unity, an Absolute knower, a moral truth (Brooks, Loyalties).

Royce’s philosophical world view aligns with today’s readings. Rediscovering Royce is a bit like the hearing the Law of Moses publicly read, after being lost for generations. It is an opportunity for people to rediscover their own center. That center is relationships. The relationship, between ourselves; between us and those who are not us; between all humanity and God. Strangely enough, relationship as our center is hard for us to understand; mostly because we prefer the simplicity of uniformity, rather than the complexity of diversity; even though diversity increases the probability of our thriving (Epperly; Blasdell). Through Royce, we rediscover the wisdom of the Jubilee tradition in Isaiah 61 that Jesus quotes, even as we realize it will not simply thrive, it will require graceful nurturing; and hard work (Jacobsen). In gleaning the vision of Isaiah’s transformative prophecy, we hear the depths of Paul’s radical teaching that our community needs every person and every person needs everyone in our community. We begin to understand that we need each other to know shalom and the community needs all of us for the community to be whole, to be complete, and to be at peace. And now we understand the silence in the room as Jesus sits down. We share their visceral sense of

Fulfilled.
Really, Jesus?
Here? ~ How? ~ Where? (Hoezee).

And then I received a final gift; a shared Facebook post. It’s from General Colin Powell. He was on his way to Walter Reed when the left front tire blew. It was cold, but he started changing the tire; the lug nuts were tight making it even more difficult. A car pulls over and stops; a man with an artificial leg got out. The driver had recognized Gen Powell, from his service in Afghanistan, where he lost his leg in civilian service. After introductions, he took the wrench and finished changing the tire. When it was all done, he took a selfie with Gen. Powell. Later that night he sent a message

Gen. Powell, I hope I never forget today because I’ll never forget reading your books. You were always an inspiration, a leader and statesman. After 33 years in the military, you were the giant whose shoulders, we stood upon to carry the torch to light the way and now it is tomorrow’s generation that must do the same.

Anthony Maggert

Gen. Powell replied

Thanks, Anthony. You touched my soul and reminded me about what this country is all about and why it is so great.

Let’s stop screaming at each other. Let’s just take care of each other. You made my day. (Powell)

Today and every day, is our opportunity to continue to fulfill scripture, to be one of the diverse members of one divine body, doing our best, with everyone else, in giving ourselves to a noble cause in mutual affection, taking care of each other, in the amazing variety of our reflections of God’s image, helping everyone, everywhere to know shalom: stability, safety, belonging, self-esteem, and transcendence (Maslow).


References

Blackwell, Tom. “Northern aliens: Around 100,000 Canadians live under the radar in U.S. as illegal immigrants.” National Post (2017). <nationalpost.com/news/world/northern-aliens-around-100000-canadians-live-under-the-radar-in-u-s-as-illegal-immigrants>.

Blasdell, Machrina L. Indispensable, Epiphany 3. 27 1 2019. <episcopalchurch.org/library/sermon/indispensable-epiphany-3-c-january-27-2019>.

Bratt, Doug. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a. 27 1 2019. <cep.calvinseminary.edu>.

Brooks, David. How We Destroy Lives Today. 21 1 2019. <https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/21/opinion/covington-march-for-life.html&gt;.

—. “Your Loyalties Are Your Life.” 24 1 2019. nytimes.com. <nytimes.com/2019/01/24/opinion/josiah-royce-loyalty.html>.

Common, David. “U.S. on guard against rise in illegal border crossings as Canada rejects asylum claims.” CBC News (2018). <cbc.ca/news/world/national-illegal-border-crossing-us-from-canada-1.4863636>.

Culpepper, R. Alan. New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary The Gospel of Luke. Vol. 8. Abbington, 2015. 12 vols. Olive Tree App.

Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary The Third Sunday after the. 27 1 2019. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.

Gaventa, Beverly Roberts and David Petersen. New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary. Nashville, n.d.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Hoezee, Scott. Epiphany 3C Luke 4:14-21. 27 1 2019. <https://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/epiphany-3c-2/?type=the_lectionary_gospel&gt;.

Jacobsen, David Schnasa. Commentary on Luke 4:14-21. 27 1 2019.

Keener, Craig and John Walton. NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible Notes. Nashville: Zondervan, 2017.

Kim, Yung Suk. Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a. 27 1 2019. <workingpreacher.org>.

Maslow, Abraham. “Hierarchy of Needs.” Wikipedia. n.d. 25 1 2019. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs&gt;.

NPR. I figured-it-was-going-to-be-a-horrible-death-and-it-probably-will-be. Prod. National Public Radio. 23 1 2019. <https://www.npr.org/2019/01/23/686000458/i-figured-it-was-going-to-be-a-horrible-death-and-it-probably-will-be&gt;.

Powell, General Colin L. Facebook Posting. Facebook. 24 1 2019. 25 1 2019.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

The Living Church. “Listen.” 27 1 2019. livingchurch.org. <https://livingchurch.org/2019/01/21/1-27-listen/&gt;.

TOXMAP FAQ. How much of the US electricity generation is attributed to coal? n.d. Web. <https://toxmap.nlm.nih.gov/toxmap/faq/2009/08/how-much-of-the-us-electricity-generation-is-attributed-to-coal.html&gt;.

Wikipedia. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. n.d. 25 1 2019. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs&gt;.

 

 

 

Middler Sheep

A sermon for the 4th Sunday of Easter:

Acts 9:36-43, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30, Psalm 23

 

Thursday Liz Cato buried Joyce, her mother. Friday Moreland White, from Osceola, buried his mother, Peggy. Saturday morning, my brother in law, Gene died following a complicated recovery from bypass surgery. And as the 23rd Psalm is often read at funerals, and with all these funerals around us I am feeling remiss if I didn’t say something.

I remember about fifteen years ago when my mother died after a twelve-year spiral into the darkness of Alzheimer. My siblings and I had begun to speak of her already being dead because she couldn’t remember anybody or anything. And so I was taken aback, I was surprised at the sense of loss I felt at her funeral, and sometimes later; until today. Peggy and Joyce and Gene lived long lives; Gene’s not quite so long. And for some time, their lives were diminished in a variety of ways. Their death was a released of sorts. But I wouldn’t be surprised at all if their families were surprised by a sense of loss, today, and in future days.

The 23rd psalm is an expression of trust. It reminds us that we will lack nothing. We hear again that God sustains the flock’s life. More than “goodness and mercy” following us, it actually reads that “goodness and mercy” are pursuing us (Murphy). The 23rd Psalm is that perpetual assurance that we are never ever alone (Lewis).

So, I do not know what valley you find yourselves in today. I do not know what shadows may be moving across your lives at this moment. But, as we were just reminded, I do know that you are not alone, you never have been, and you never will be. The spirit of the Lord God is all of us. The God who made us from the dust of the earth, the God who breathed ruach, life-giving spirit, into us is always present.

Now to today’s reading and setting; both 23rd Psalm and the reading from John 10 are images of the shepherd, the good shepherd to be more precise. However, a couple of things that I read this week sort of tugged me toward a different direction. Remember when Jesus calls his friend Lazarus out of the tomb, he tells Lazarus’ friends to unbind him (John 11). Since we now see Jesus as the shepherd, we can now see how Lazarus’ friends are sheep (SSJE). A colleague of mine wrote a blog titled On Being Sheep (Pankey). One of the commentators, read every week, wrote on the nature of belief, pondering how much of our belief is dependent on God’s agency, and how much is up to us (Lose)? Another wrote that the Jewish leaders had no ability to hear the Good Shepherd’s voice (Hoezee). And another exhorts this morning’s preachers to help their congregation hear the Shepherd’s voice amidst all the others; acknowledging that the voices are legion and that often we do not perceive how contrary they are (Johnson).

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Both Psalm 23 and John 10 are clear; we are God’s, we are Jesus’ sheep. But the tug in the different direction for me this morning was: What does that mean? What are obligations of being a sheep? Sometime in the last 25 years or so, someone said that reading the Bible in the church is simply a matter of giving voice to God’s words. I can see how being sheep is similar; as sheep we vocalize Jesus’ voice, as sheep we manifest Jesus’ presence. Both of which are vitally needed in today’s world. Two Op-Ed pieces in the New York Times this week illustrate how.

In How to Fix Politics, David Brooks notes that after WWII, our community mindset began changing to an individualist mindset. Today’s primary ideology is that we can do whatever we want to do so long as we do not interfere with someone else’s doing whatever they want to do. This has led to a disintegration of community relationships. In one survey 47% of the people did not know their neighbors by name. Brooks writes that we spend less and less time in that middle-ring of community relationships such as the PTA, the neighborhood watch, volunteer fire and rescue, youth football, baseball and soccer leagues, sorority and fraternity organizations, all of that. And so frequently we hear the complaints about not being able to find anyone to help. One of the results of this of increasing isolation is the growing vitriolic speech that we hear in disagreements be it political or whatever. It turns out that these middle ring relationships are where we develop the skills to deliberate differing opinions of all kinds. Because even though you disagree with your neighbor, you still get stuff done together week after week after week that is to the benefit of both your neighborhood and to your larger community. (Brooks).

The importance of the middle was actually proven in a failed Air Force Academy effort to improve the worst performing cadets. The plan was to put best and worse cadets in the same squadron, building on the observation that the best have a tendency to help the worst. It failed, and the Academy went back to the to the traditional mix, that happened to have a bit of everyone, best, middle and the worst, in every squadron. It turns out that the middle cadets are the social glue that held the best and worst together in relationships with each other. And it is the relationships that allow the best to influence the worst (unknown). Without the middle social glue there are no relationships and without the relationships, there is no influence.

 

We are very good at getting together with people like us. But we are not very good at building bridges, to those who are different than we are. As we’ve become more and more isolated, for a variety of reasons, we’ve turned to politics to fill that void. Brooks notes that politics is now at the center of our psychological, emotional and even spiritual lives (Brooks). I would much prefer that our spiritual lives be the center of our psychological, emotional and political lives.

In another opinion column, Roger Cohen in The Death of Liberalism makes similar points. He cites Francis Fukuyama writings that the liberal emphasis on individuality which is not interfering with others too much, “is not a passionate battle-cry to inspire men to sacrifice and martyrdom and heroic feats.”

However, such feats are required for the defense of liberty. Liberty stresses the need for us to accept each other’s differences; even when they appear incompatible. Cohen writes that a major contributor to the failure of the Arab Spring was the absence of a middle class ready to accept and mediate multiple truths. As inequality grows and angry discourses rant across social media, intolerance and the unwillingness to accept and mediate competing truths grow, and so does the threat to liberty and the pursuit of happiness (Cohen). We are so distracted by the cacophony of voices promising us perfect freedom and self-fulfillment that we are losing the vital foundation of our neighbors and our communities (Brooks).

So what does all of that have to do with being sheep? Well, it occurred to me that perhaps our calling is to be sheep in the middle. It is not about figuring out the compromise that will make it all workout; it is about allowing ourselves to be that middler glue that builds relationships that allow influence to do its work and for surprising solutions to arise. And we can do this because we know we are in that fold. We can do this because we know everything depends on belonging to Jesus. It is not how we feel; it is not about having the right experience, or being doubt free, or what we have accomplished, or what we have avoided, or always having the right liturgy; we know that the only thing that matters is that we are known by the shepherd (Johnson). And we should do this because we know Jesus is the shepherd to everyone (Lynch).

It also occurred to me, that to be middler sheep is going to require us to learn some things. Like how to discern the voice of the Good Shepherd in the midst of a cacophony of voices that pull us in a million different directions. It is not easy. We may have to stop some old stuff. We may have to start some new stuff. But I think mostly what we are going to have to do is to trust. Sheep trust the shepherd. We are going to have to:

• trust that we will lack nothing
• trust that just as God sustains the flock’s life, God also sustains our lives, even when            we wander away
• trust that goodness and mercy pursue us • trust that we are never ever, ever, ever                  alone
• trust that being in a relationship with God on the one hand, and being in a                                relationship with any other sheep on the other already puts us in the middle
• trust that ~ we are already middler sheep.


References

Brooks, David. “How to Fix Politics.” The New York Times (2016). <http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/12/opinion/how-to-fix-politics.html?ref=opinion&gt;.

Cohen, Roger. “The Death of Liberalism.” The New York Times (2016). <http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/14/opinion/the-death-of-liberalism.html?ref=opinion&_r=0&gt;.

Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 17 4 2016. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.

Hoezee, Scott. John 10:22-30. 17 4 2016. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/&gt;.

Johnson, Elisabeth. Commentary on John 10:22-30. 20 12 2015. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

Lewis, Karoline. Resurrection is Protection. 17 4 2016. <workingpreacher.org>.

Lose, David. Easter 4 C: The Electing Word. 17 4 2016. <http://www.davidlose.net/2016/04/easter-4-c-the-electing-word/&gt;.

Lynch, John J. “The Good Shepherd, Easter 4 (C) – 2016.” 17 4 2016. Sermons that Work. <http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2016/03/28/the-good-shepherd-easter-4-c-2016/&gt;.

Mast, Stan. The Lectionary Psalms 23. 17 4 2016. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermonstarters/&gt;.

Murphy, Kelly J. Commentary on Psalm 23. 17 4 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

Pankey, Steve. “On Being Sheep.” 17 4 2016. Draughting Theology. <https://draughtingtheology.wordpress.com/2016/04/12/on-being-sheep/&gt;.

SSJE. 14 4 2016.

unknown. “unknown.” (n.d.).

 

 

 

Our Prodigal Selves

A sermon for the 4th Sunday in Lent: Joshua 5:9-12, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, Luke 15:1-3,11b-32, Psalm 32

 

He was simply known as Bill. The Air Force Academy Cadets did not notice him much; there was only an occasional nod of the head or “good morning.” as they rushed off to whatever. Bill was the janitor, the housekeeper, who picked up behind them, kept their squad room spotless, from floors to showers. Bill was just another fixture, all but invisible, blending into squad’s dorm.

One afternoon James Moschgat was reading about the US Army battle for Italy when the story of Altavilla caught his attention.

On September 13, 1943, a Private William Crawford of the 36th Infantry Division, had been involved in some bloody fighting on Hill 424 “in the face of intense and overwhelming hostile fire… with no regard for personal safety… on his own initiative, Private Crawford single-handedly attacked fortified enemy positions.” It continued, “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, the President of the United States …

James couldn’t believe it; his squad’s janitor held the Medal of Honor. He asked Bill about it the next day. “Yep – that is me,” he said. When asked why he didn’t say anything he answered: “That was one day in my life, and it happened a long time ago.”

Things changed. The cadets greeted Bill with respect. They began to pick up after themselves. Bill was invited to some formal squad affairs. Bill also changed. He moved with more ease, wasn’t quite so stooped. He answered the cadet’s greetings eye to eye and a hearty “good morning.” He learned many of the cadets’ first names. As James left the dorm for the last time, Bill shook his hand and wished him “Good luck young man.” (Moschgat).

You know the story of the Prodigal Son or Sons¸ or whatever title you apply to Luke 5:11. You know the brash young son asks for his inheritance, essentially telling his father to “drop dead” (Hoezee, Luke). After squandering it all, he returned home intending to ask his father for a job as a hired hand. But he never got the chance, as his father lovingly welcomes him home, throws a lavish party for him, and gives him luxurious gifts. You know the parable is about God’s boundless grace, given to all without merit. You might even have thought about the older brother. He bears the burden of goodness, always doing what he should, as he should when he should (Epperly). He gets angry at his younger brother and his father, complaining that his father has never given him anything. The father replies “All this will be yours.” But we never hear if older brother eventually understands his father’s grace, or is as lost as his younger brother was (Ringe). You might understand how indignant he feels if you’ve ever worked hard all day, given it your best, only to have all your efforts overlooked at best and perhaps considered worthless (Lose). Have you ever noticed that the older brother never got any joy or fulfillment from his work; that, for all intended purposes, he thought of himself as a hired hand, exactly what his younger brother, in shame, sought to be (Hoezee, Luke).

Yes, we know this parable is about grace. However, when we remember that this morning’s Gospel reading begins with the Pharisees and scribes grumbling about Jesus fellowshipping and eating with tax collectors and sinners, the undesirables of the undesirables, we begin to understand how it is also about relationships. Not just our relationship with God, but also with each other, as Paul is defining it to the Corinthians. Jesus, reconciling everything to God, through himself, changes all relationships. Paul says we must see everything and everyone as reconciled with God. Not only are we bearers of God’s image; we also are bearers of God’s saving grace (Hoezee, 2 Corin.). The parable reveals that grace, righteousness, and justice are not about balancing the books. Grace, righteousness and justice are about restored relationships (Ellingsen). It is about seeing God / Jesus in everything and every person (Epperly). Perhaps most difficult for us to glean is that it is about our internal transformation (Sakenfeld). We get that in our relationship with God; we struggle with it in our relationships with others.

There is a Bible study method that invites you to see which character, in, or implicit, or imagined you are in a parable. You are asked to reflect on how you are that character; not as the typical allegory, but as you. You know the father is the allegorical figure of God. This study method asks you to imagine yourself as the father, as you are. We might ask ourselves, “How did we contribute to our older son’s feeling?” We might review our behavior to see if we ever expressed the feelings we have for our dutiful older son. We might wonder how we can express the same joy we have for his diligence that we expressed for our younger son’s return from his indiscretions. Moschgat’s story of his cadet squadron’s changed relationship with Bill is edifying.

At the end of the article, he lists several learnings; two apply this morning. He writes

Everyone Deserves Respect. Because we hung the “janitor” label on Mr. Crawford, we often wrongly treated him with less respect than others. He deserved much more, and not just because he was received the Medal of Honor. Bill deserved respect because he was a janitor, walked among us, and was a part of our team.

He continues – courtesy makes a difference, daily words moving from a perfunctory ‘hello’ to heartfelt greetings matter (Moschgat). I once heard a priest say “How are you?” is the most dangerous question you can ask because you must be prepared for the truthful answer; ready to listen to all of it. It is important to notice that the cadets did not directly change Bill’s behavior. They changed their behavior, and the impact of the change in themselves evoked the change in Bill.

The Book of Common Prayer teaches us that “the ministry of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (BCP). Our mission is to reconcile all relationships. Clearly I cannot reconcile all your relationships, nor can any of you reconcile all of anyone else’s relationships, and none of us can reconcile relationships of those we don’t know. What we can be, is responsible for is our own relationships. We can trust that through Jesus our relationship with God is reconciled. We can understand that it is our behavior towards others, not just what we say; that is the true measure of our Christian relationships, especially involving those we don’t like and/or don’t believe are worthy. And, finally, we can trust that by working on our behavior, by working on changing ourselves, we will, as the cadets demonstrated, evoke changes in the other.

It is my prayer for each of us that some portion of our remaining Lenten discipline, and our daily discipline thereafter, will be to tend to our prodigal selves, known and unknown, joyfully welcoming our repentant self, and likewise jubilantly celebrating our diligent self.

 

References

Ellingsen, Mark. 6 3 2016. <http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com/&gt;.

Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 6 3 2016. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.

Fredrickson, David E. Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:1621. 6 3 2016. <workingpreacher.org>.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Helmer, Ben. “Ambassador for Christ, Lent 4 (C) – 2016.” 6 3 2016. Sermons that Work.

Hoezee, Scott. Lent 4 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. 6 3 2016. <cep.calvinseminary.edu>.

—. Lent 4 Luke. 6 3 2016. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/advent-3c/?type=the_lectionary_gospel&gt;.

Lewis, Karoline. Perspective Matters. 6 3 2016. <workingpreacher.org>.

Lose, David. Lent 4 C: The Prodigal God. 6 3 2016.

Moschgat, James. Leadership and the Janitor. Fall 2010. <http://usoonpatrol.org/archives/2010/09/07/leadership-and-the-janitor&gt;.

Ringe, Sharon H. Commentary on Luke 15:13, 6 3 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

The Episcopal Church. Book of Common Prayer. 1979.

Divine, Humanity, All the Rest

I have been absent for some time, mostly enjoying the beauty of the South Carolina beach. Today I return to the discipline of sharing thoughts about the coming Sunday’s lections, or other spurious contemplations. It seems unfair to be saddled with the Trinity as a reset point; on the other hand Genesis and creation coupled with Matthew’s great commission is full of relevant provocations. (12 + pages of notes so far.)

Perhaps it’s because just before I left for the shore I finished this session of Family Systems Conferences I’ve been seeing triangles all over the place. Yes, sometime the symbol (apparently I need to yield a lot), but far more often in relationships. It is important to know that triangles are not bad by definition but descriptive; the trouble comes with imbalance and meshing of self with other; but I wander. The same is true for Sunday’s readings (not the wandering, the presence of relationship triangles).

In Genesis we glean a relationship triangle between God, creation, and humanity – empowered to dominate creation as God created, i.e with inestimable love, which we better hear a tending to.

In Matthew we glean a relationship triangle between Jesus, the newly commissioned disciples, and all nations.

I’m noting that when we distance God and or Jesus in either relationship domination becomes exploitation and discipling becomes making. The focus shifts from the intricate  balance between God/Jesus, humanity/disciples, and creation/others to us. In short we try to be like God. Oh wait that comes later in Genesis 3; and oh what a mess that story reveals.

Brooks on Brooks

In his column this morning David Brooks wrote about Arthur Brooks. (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/21/opinion/brooks-capitalism-for-the-masses.html?ref=opinion&_r=0) A. Brooks is now a social scientist and president of the American Enterprise Institute.  D. Brooks hooked me with … ardent defenders of the free enterprise system … primarily … on moral terms.

Sunday’s Gospel is the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount; the reading from Leviticus might easily be the moral base for economics. Both are examples of leaders trying to get the people back to the basis of their relationships with each other as God defines it. It is hard for us to hear, because English isn’t always clear about singular and plural forms of pronouns, and living in post reformation times, we are heavily tilted to individual salvation. Leviticus, Jesus and Mathew are speaking directly to our community responsibility to the community without regard to any individual’s standing what so ever.

I find it perplexing that many legislators seem to be so ardent about following Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 and so completely ignoring Leviticus 19 (and other inconvenient bit like Leviticus 11:ff which prohibits eating shrimp, oysters etc.). At the same time I understand because I also ignore some verses, and focus on others. And I do not think getting into verse throwing opposing monologues is helpful either. What I believe  Sunday’s lessons call us to do is let go of details long enough to rediscover the fundamentals of human relationship and divine relationship which for me begins in Genesis 1:27   And God created אָדָם‎ (adam) in God’s image; in the image of God God prepared אָדָם‎ male and female God prepared them. All of us are made in the image of God, all of us reflect the image of God, Paul goes far to say all of us are temples, homes, for the Spirit of God. All relationships begin here. All the rules are, or should, help us live into the fullness of our being. I long for the day when we need less because we are all more.