October 2, 2016 – Gifts are for giving

Pentecost 20   October 2, 2016   Psalm 112, 1 Corinthians 12:4-12, Deuteronomy 14:22-29, 2 Corinthians 9:6-15         Gifts are for giving ***************************************************** The comedian Jack Benny was famously stingy in the radio and tv roles he played. His on-air, on-screen personality bordered on miserliness. (He once had a pay phone installed in his home kitchen…) In one skit on his tv show Benny is walking along when a man comes over, and points a gun at him. Benny says, “what are you doing? Put that gun away.” The man says, “This is a stick up, buddy. Your money or your life.”  Benny doesn’t reply. The man says again: “I said your money or your life!” … Long pause…. “What’s it gonna be buddy – your money or your life?” …Finally, Benny says, “I’m thinking about it… I’m thinking about it…” *** We’re thinking – aloud – about life and money today. And the good news is – it doesn’t have to be either or. Its possible to have both money and life. The bad news is – its also possible to have plenty of money – and not get robbed or shot… but still not have life. But of course we’re here today to hear the good news. The good news of Jesus Christ. And as he so often does, Jesus tells us how to have it all, in just a few words – (the words of our Thought For the Day): “Give, and it will be given to you… for the measure that you give will be the measure you get back.” Some call this karma – the law of cause and effect. The bible speaks of reaping what we sow. “What you sow, you shall reap”(Galatians 6:7). And whatever we call it, this is one of those basic laws of the universe that applies, whether or not we believe laws of the universe. Whether or not we believe it: The measure we give will be the measure we get back…. Our psalm today tells us those who give generously to the poor will themselves be blessed with wealth, prosperity, and enduring righteousness. Paul quotes from this same psalm in our reading from Second Corinthians. Of course we know of some people who are notoriously ungenerous, yet who appear to prosper. We also know people who are generous, yet poor. The word translated here as prosperity is probably better translated as flourishing – meaning abundantly blessed with life. We can indeed always expect to be blessed with enough and to share when we give – though we should not always expect material wealth – which, as the bible also explains, is a frequent source of spiritual peril, and even spiritual bankruptcy… Jesus counsels us to always keep eternity in view. He tells us the rich and powerful will be brought low, the poor and vulnerable lifted up. “Blessed are you poor, yours is the kingdom of God” and “woe to you rich, you’ve had your fun,” Jesus says (Luke 6)… Jesus tells a story of a rich man who feasts sumptuously every day, and dresses in the finest clothing, while…At his gate, begging, seen, but not helped, is a desperately poor man, named Lazarus (Luke 16)… And the rich man dies – and goes to a hot, unpleasant place –...

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October 11, 2015

Pentecost 20   October 11, 2015   Job 2;11-3:3; 4:1-7; 5:17-19, 25-27; 22:1-2,23:1-17; Hebrews 4:12-16 ******************************************* First Job loses all his wealth – then his seven sons and three daughters are all suddenly killed – then his own health shuts down – and he’s left sitting on an ash heap in total misery… All this happens virtually at once (as we heard last week.) Now we go from bad to perhaps-even-worse… As today… We meet Job’s friends. Remember these guys? The friends who torment Job – first by telling him everything will work out fine – then by telling him everything that’s happened to him’s all because of all the wicked things he must have done. (With friends like this, who needs enemies?) And the old phrase “miserable comforters” comes from Job, describing his friends… But if we read the whole book of Job (not just a Reader’s Digest Condensed Version…) Maybe Job’s friends are not quite so bad. At least at first they look like good friends indeed. How many friends do we have who would come and just sit with us in perfect silence for a whole week – mourning and grieving along with us – if we were in Job’s place? That’s what Job’s friends do, in the beginning… And maybe I’m defending Job’s friends to excess, because I can easily see myself in them. They could all be pastors. They’re trying to do the right thing. They’re doing what they believe they’re supposed to do. They’re preaching the orthodox theology of their day. Most of what they say to Job is pretty close to what we hear in the biblical books of Deuteronomy, Proverbs, and some of the psalms…. To be fair to these friends, we should remember the bible really does teach that wrong-doing brings divine punishment, while doing right brings divine reward. And we need to read the whole book of Job alongside the last eight chapters of Deuteronomy to understand how radical Job is… Our lectionary bible reading schedule allocates four weeks to Job; one week for the opening (last week), two weeks for the ending of the book (next week and the week after). This week is the only week we have to consider all the 35 chapters in between. (The lectionary actually features only eleven verses from chapter 23. We’ve added in a bit, trying to get more of the flavor of the extended dialogue between Job and his friends.) Still, the short excerpts we’re reading today have me feeling like we’re watching the movie on fast forward… slowing down only here and there, momentarily… It’s hard to fully capture the feel of all that’s going on… Yet I understand why the lectionary doesn’t try to cover the whole book of Job… Chapter 3 through 37 is one long series of cycles of conversation that’s more like poetry than prose. More like an opera than talk radio. Job is meant to be sung, not just spoken – and it’s full effect depends on hearing the whole dialogue as a drama…To really do it right would take a few hours…(Maybe next year. Anyway–) After that whole long week of sitting in silence with his friends, finally Job can’t be silent any longer. He goes on an extended outburst for all of chapter 3…...

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October 26, 2014 – Take time to be holy

Exodus 19:1-8 On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.” So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. The people all answered as one: “Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.” Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord. 1 Peter 2:4-6, 9 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame….”   But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Romans 12:1-2, 9-13 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect…. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. *** Pentecost 20   October 26, 2014   Psalm 99, Exodus 19:1-9, 1 Peter 2:4-6, 9; Romans 12:1-2, 9-13            Take time to be holy ********************************* I’ve had a hard time, sometimes, with thoughts and images that come to mind when I hear the words holy and holiness… Not always and not all kinds of holiness… I’m fine with the gentler side of holiness – like – Silent night – holy night… That kind of holiness hasn’t been a problem. The holiness we see in Jesus and the Holy Spirit, wrapping us in the love of God…I’m thanking God for that… It’s the fearful side of holiness that can still make...

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October 6, 2013 – Pentecost 20

Luke 13:18-19 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” Luke 17:1-10 Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”  The Lord replied, “If you had faith as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.    “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’” Pentecost 20   October 6, 2010 (Habakkuk 2:1-4, Luke 13:18-19) Luke 17:1-10 ******************************************************* The apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith, and Jesus says, ‘if you’ve got faith like a mustard seed, you can tell trees to tango and they’ll be dancing across the ocean.’ Some think the apostles are asking for a mega-dose of faith to be able to do miracles like they’ve seen Jesus doing. Which could be a possibility. But my guess is these disciples are asking for more faith mostly just to be able to live up to the job description for people-of-faith as they hear Jesus describing it.  Consider how – Jesus has just warned his followers it’s better to be fish-bait at the bottom of the ocean, with a quarter-ton-stone-sinker attached, than to be leading any of God’s little ones astray. I used to think “little ones” meant literally children – and leading children astray, in the broadest sense, is hard enough to avoid – and children, for sure are included in Jesus’ warning. But now I’m convinced by the many bible commentaries that say Jesus is calling all believers, of any age, “little ones” – which makes doing no serious harm even harder. And I’m sure hoping Jesus grades on a very gentle curve… And I’m praying, Lord, increase my faith. Then Jesus says, when any of you sins, all the rest need to call them on it. Demand accountability. That’s hard enough. Then he says – and even if someone sins against you seven times a day – if they repent,...

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