November 15, 2015 – Provoke one another to love

Pentecost 25 November 15, 2015 Psalm 113, 1 Samuel 1:4-20, Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 10:11-25   Provoke one another to love ************************************************** Jaime Cardinal Sin, longtime Catholic archbishop of Manila, liked to joke about his name. A ‘cardinal sin’ of course is one of those really bad, deadly sins. And his name really was Cardinal Sin. Christian author Philip Yancey, in his book, Prayer, tells a story that Cardinal Sin also used to tell about himself: A woman kept showing up at his weekly public audience, telling him that she had a message from God for him. ‘I brushed her off several times,’ Cardinal Sin would say… But she kept coming back. Finally the cardinal spoke to her saying: “We Catholics have strict rules governing visions and messages from God. I need to test your authenticity. I want you to go back and ask God about a particular sin I recently confessed in private. If you ask God and he tells you the answer, I’ll know your vision is genuine.” The next week she returned and he quizzed her, a bit nervously, “Well, did you ask God about my sin?” “I did.” “And did God answer?” “Yes.” “Well, what did God answer?” “God said that he couldn’t remember.” I sure hope God can’t remember any of my sins also… And I take great heart in our word from God today about forgiveness – which comes to us originally from the prophet Jeremiah – which we now hear re-mixed and quoted also in Hebrews – (actually for a second time, having been quoted also in chapter 8 of Hebrews). God says “I will put my laws in their hearts and write them on their minds – and I will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more.” And in Hebrews Jesus is revealed as the once-and-for-all-fulfillment of the promise of a new covenant. Jesus himself is the law of God – embodied in human flesh; engraved now in our hearts and minds. The new covenant in which God not only forgives our sins, but remembers our sins no more. Mighty good news indeed. (And God knows we need good news… in these times…) Our reading from Hebrews today is one of the strongest, clearest, most affirmative messages in the bible about God forgiving and forgetting… And thanks God, God forgives and forgets all sins – at least when we really turn to Jesus and trust in him. But that hasn’t (I notice) kept me (and some of my friends, family, and acquaintances) from remembering many of my sins (and theirs) over the years. There doesn’t seem to even be a statute of limitations on remembering sins from fifty or more years ago. (I am still not sure I want to attend my 50th high school reunion in two years, if there is one.) Which is not God’s fault. God has forgiven. But it does remind us – even the memory of sin (our own and that of others) can be almost as toxic as sin itself. Like radioactive waste, even forgiven sin can still have a long half-life that makes it dangerous if handled inappropriately… Even when we know we are fully forgiven, we still have much need of grace… And thanks God, we have grace in abundance… Something we’re reminded of...

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November 10, 2013 – Pentecost 25

Luke 20:27-40 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.” Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”  Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask him another question. ********************** Pentecost 25  Exodus 3:1-6,* Acts 23:6-11,* Luke 20:27-40    God of the Living (* for these readings see below) **************************************************** So is Jesus really telling us – ‘sorry folks – no marriage in heaven’? I sure hope not – since I’m happily married, and forever, I hope – and because if he’s saying that, I’m afraid some might even start thinking about not wanting to go to heaven… But before we go there and get our minds made up (or mixed up further) as to what Jesus is really saying – maybe we need to look deeper at the context of today’s discussion – starting with, who are these guys Jesus is arguing with about the afterlife (or the lack thereof)? Meet the Sadducees. Maybe you’ve heard the one-liner – these guys are called “sad-you-see” – because they don’t believe in resurrection. Though in reality, just as likely, they’re angry, more than sad. Angry with Jesus in particular. Mad at anyone, probably, who tries to shake up life as they’ve known it. Historians tell us they were the religious and political establishment of Jerusalem – the elite group from whose ranks the high priests of the temple were most often selected. Sadducees are said to have been mostly wealthy aristocrats, who collaborated with the Roman empire, and had Rome’s support most of the time in return. Sadducees don’t believe in resurrection, and deny existence of an afterlife. Probably at least partly because they’ve  got power, money, and privilege. So who needs an afterlife – which might be worse than what we’ve got now? But maybe we need to back up and review where we’ve been, and where we are now in the story… *** Jesus has been traveling to Jerusalem from way back in Luke chapter 9, on through chapter 19, when he enters the capitol city on a donkey...

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