July 9, 2017

Pentecost 5   July 9, 2017   Psalm 145, Romans 7:7-25a, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 ***************************************************************** “Come to me and I will give you rest,” Jesus says. And yet here I am, feeling feel like… I’ve been ignoring the invitation… most of this past week…. Life is difficult, Jesus often tells us.  Life is difficult – but – it’s never supposed to be as difficult as we make it. So Dorothy Day, co-founder of The Catholic Worker movement often said. Which I’ve been thinking about this week, as I’ve been pondering what St Paul says today… About it being human nature to want to do the right thing… Even while we’re doing what we really don’t want to do… We do not do the good we want to do, Paul says in Romans, but instead we do the very things we don’t want to do… And by now I should know better than to try to cover Romans and the gospel in the same sermon… And reading NT Wright’s good commentary on Romans I should have been doubly reminded… As he points out how challenging it can be even just to read this chapter quickly without getting tongue-tied… And yet here I was, spending most of a whole day just trying to understand all the ways great interpreters through the ages have heard and interpreted what Paul’s trying to say… Till I found myself feeling like this person Paul describes in Romans, who wants to do the right thing… but keeps getting it wrong… I keep thinking I want to do the right thing, but I need to say “I think” because I’ve been remembering how my sainted mother (God rest her soul) used to tell me that when I was little I would tell her, “but… I don’t want to do…what I want to do…” Which is how I end up feeling after studying this section of St Paul’s letter to the Romans – that starts way back in chapter six, and winds through twisty turns of thought well into chapter eight. A complicated argument about how the law of God (and probably the natural law and civil law also) actually makes us more (not less) inclined to break the law. Leaving me feeling again like my four-year-old-self – not at all sure now that I even want to do… what I want to do…) As I try to wrap my head around what I think the word of God is saying… And think about… How often we think we want to do the right thing – but then find,, in practice, that the very same law that tells us not to covet actually triggers our inclination to want yet-more-stuff that we don’t want to want.  We want what we don’t want to want all the more once we’re told not to want it – so St Paul says. And as if to prove his point, now I can’t seem to resist hanging out perhaps for far-too-long with this strange passage of scripture – which suddenly seems to explain so much of life, here and now, for this weak-willed person… Of course I don’t think Paul intends for us to take everything he says too literally. I don’t think St Paul expects we’re always going to go shopping till we’re dropping...

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June 19, 2016

Pentecost 5   June 19, 2016   Acts 7:54-9:3, Acts 9:1-9, Acts 9:10-21  *************************************************************** We pick up again in the story of God, working through the church, continuing all that Jesus began to do and teach… Today’s episode starts with Stephen, first martyr of the church, who is being stoned to death, while a young man named Saul watches approvingly. Stephen has been brought before the council of elders on charges that he spoke against the law of Moses and the temple. Rather than directly rebutting these false charges, Stephen recounts Israel’s history from scripture, building finally to accusing his accusers of imitating Israel’s worst sins. His accusers then become a raging mob and stone Stephen to death… And those stoning Stephen check their coats with the young man Saul… As he’s dying, Stephen sounds a lot like Jesus on the cross, who prayed “Father into your hands I commit my Spirit” and “Father forgive they know not what they do”… As Stephen now says “Lord receive my spirit” and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them…” and… The first severe persecution of the church begins; with Saul, now a leader of the persecution, breaking into homes to arrest followers of Jesus and send them to prison. When we next encounter Saul (in our second reading) he’s looking for Syrian refugees – Christians who’ve fled to Syria fleeing persecution in Jerusalem… members of what he considers the heretical sect of Jesus… Suddenly a bright light from heaven flashes. Saul falls to the ground. A voice says, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asks. “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and go into the city, where you’ll be told what to do.” And Saul, who’s been binding Christians, leading them off to prison – is blinded now by the flash of light…And must be led now by the hand of companions. And now God speaks to a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, saying “go to a house on the street called Straight. Look for a man named Saul, praying there, who has just seen a vision of a man named Ananias laying hands on him to restore his sight. (That would be you, Bud.)” Ananias must already be on familiar terms with Jesus, it seems – since, first of all, he knows who is talking to him. He doesn’t ask (as Saul asked) “who are you, Lord?” when he hears the voice of Jesus. Ananias also sounds comfortable telling Jesus his true feelings, as he says, “Lord, this guy’s one of the worst persecutors of your people!” (Like ‘Are you serious?’) “Go,” Jesus says. “He’s part of my plan. Don’t worry. He’ll do his part for my name…” So Ananias goes. And I bet he keeps talking with Jesus all the way, as he heads to Straight Street for the straightening-out of Saul. Because when he arrives, his tone has really changed. Now he greets Saul, saying, “Brother Saul, the Lord has sent me so you can have your sight back and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” He lays hands on Saul and prays, and something like scales falls from Saul’s eyes. Saul rests a short while, then starts making the rounds of all the synagogues in metro Damascus, preaching...

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June 28, 2015 – Fear & Faith

Pentecost 5   June 28, 2015   Mark 5:21-43   Fear & Faith Isaac (Ryong Jae) Jung ****************************************************************** What’s the most precious thing in your life? Some people cherish their fame; some their health; some their family; some their jobs; some their money; some their family background. However, worldly possessions, regardless of quantity or value, will one day disappear. The most important thing we must secure in life is our Savior, Jesus Christ, and he is our one eternal hope. In today’s Scripture from Mark, there are two different stories. The first story speaks about a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages, or constant bleeding, for twelve years. The second story speaks about a daughter of Jairus. His most cherished daughter was dying. These two stories from today’s Gospel lessons are basically identical with many common points. First, we can see the fear and despair in two stories. In the first story, a woman had been bleeding for twelve years. In those days, bleeding of this nature was considered incurable. So she must have become extremely weak. Her life would have been of constant pain. She tried everything to be healed from her disease. She went to many doctors and spent all she had; but instead of getting better, she grew worse. Indeed, this woman must have despaired. According to the Jewish law of her day, women who were in their time of blood flow were to be separated from any direct contact with their congregation because this kind of woman was treated as unclean and impure. This means that she would have been marginalized for twelve years. Her condition of hopelessness and aloneness would have left her with intense psychological pain in her heart. Who could understand, comfort, or heal the pain of both her heart and body? In the second story, a daughter of Jairus became seriously ill. Jairus, the synagogue leader of Capernaum, of the northwestern side of Lake Galilee, had a beloved twelve-year old daughter who lay on her bed dying. He must have tried many things to heal his daughter. But her condition worsened. We can only imagine Jairus’ terrible agony. What should we do when unexpected trouble happens? What should we do when we are surrounded by hopelessness? Let us suppose that you thought you were healthy, but visiting the doctor for a small problem revealed that you had cancer. The fear of death would sweep across your hopeless soul. Let us further suppose that you worked hard to manage your company well, but your company partner went personally bankrupt, which pulled your company into bankruptcy. What would you do in such a case? Life is full of unexpected fears and problems like these. The most challenging aspect of my ministry has been facing those who are sick. There were a lot of people who were sick—physically, emotionally, spiritually—in the church. Fortunately, I was honored to have people open their hearts and share their concerns in life. All I can do is continue praying to God. Second, we can see the faith and hope in two stories. In the first story, this woman heard about Jesus and Jesus healed all her sickness. She, who used to live in utmost hopelessness, now had hope. “I can be healed if I get to meet Jesus.” She really...

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July 13, 2014 – New beginnings

Matthew 7:24-27 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” 1 Peter 3:18-22 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him. Genesis 6:5-22, 7:11-2, 8:1-22 The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord. These are the descendants of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and put the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall...

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