July 17, 2016

Pentecost 9   July 17, 2016   Luke 24:36, 44-48; Acts 13:13-43 ******************************************* The ending to this sermon we’ve just heard may sound a little strange – considering Paul’s a guest preacher, in an unfamiliar setting. Where are his manners? His sermon ending is a bit in our face, isn’t it? – “Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: ‘Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.’” I’m probably way too timid, but – it’s hard for me to imagine ending a sermon like this… Yet, at the same time, we should notice, there are quite a few things Paul says here that are standard public speaking approaches. He start off by affirming common ground – greeting the congregation as ‘Fellow Israelites” – and – “Fellow children of Abraham…(before also including the Gentile believers in attendance)… He speaks several times of our people, our ancestors – God calling our ancestors into becoming a people – promises God made to our ancestors… Paul recalls a lot of common-ground history of Israel – slavery in Egypt, time in the wilderness, coming into the land of Canaan… He claims the heritage of King David, “a man after God’s own heart” – now for Jesus, the Messiah. Up to this point, and the introduction of Jesus – everything said is probably all good with the congregation… Next comes locating Jesus as fulfillment of the psalms, prophets, and legacy of King David – quoting psalms 2 and 16, quoting the prophets Isaiah (55) and Habakkuk (1) –  proclaiming Jesus as fulfillment of all that’s good in the heritage of Israel…. Starting with common ground before edging into less familiar turf – telling us now that Jesus was rejected by the leaders and people of Jerusalem because they didn’t recognize him for who he is – Messiah and Savior – or understand the prophets who spoke of his coming. Thus they crucified Jesus – fulfilling what the prophets said – prophets we heard – without really hearing… Paul then goes on to say Jesus stands ready to forgive every sin – which sounds like very good news to me. Jesus forgives all sins – adding this is something that doesn’t happen – by obeying the law of Moses. Which sounds again like good news. (I’ve never been much good at keeping all the law of Moses.) But this has also been one of those places where Christians have often misunderstood Judaism. There’s been an unfortunate tendency over the centuries to imagine Jews as believing in salvation by works of the law, and Christians as believing in salvation by grace alone. But the reality, bible scholars and historians now tell us, was that most Jews always believed their salvation and their selection as the people of God was entirely by grace. When Paul tells us in his letters – we are saved by grace, not law – he’s reminding Jews of what they should already know – and teaching Gentile pagans what they usually do not know. Pagan gods typically demand all kinds of works from their devotees. This way of thinking has to be corrected… But Jews and Christians alike believe we covenant...

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July 26, 2015 – Loaves and fishes

Pentecost 9   July 26, 2015   Exodus 16:13-18, 2 Kings 4:42-44, John 6:1-5 Loaves and fishes ************************************************************* This has been a week full of history for our family. Tuesday we went to Plymouth Plantation and spent the day revisiting the early history of our state and our nation. We were reminded frequently of our commonwealth’s deep roots in biblical history. Church, for example, was mandatory here in the early days… Which has had me contemplating my own biblical history… One of my odd habits in my teenage years was to put on a stack of records first thing in the morning, especially on school days, when I needed a little extra help waking up, as I sipped my first morning cup of strong coffee… Our family didn’t go to church when I was growing up. But my parents, life-long jazz fans, had some gospel records, one of which I especially liked to wake up to — a scratchy 78 rpm record, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, singing a lively song, Two Little Fishes and Five Loaves of Bread… Sister Rosetta was a formidable guitar picker and a soulful singer… But what I remember most… is the words of the song’s chorus– “with only two little fishes… and five loaves of bread.” That catchy gospel ballad got under the radar of my skepticism about God and religion… Got under my skin, into my soul… Especially the last verse — “He broke the bread up — also the fishes — then his disciples went ahead — but the more passed round — the more they found — lots left over, when all had been fed — on only two little fishes…and five loaves of bread.” When I encountered Jesus, just out of my teens, a little ways into my 20’s, and eventually started trying to follow him… One of the main threads of his gospel teaching for me was this theme of feeding the hungry with only a few loaves and fishes… A theme that eventually became a big part of my life’s work… And of course Sister Rosetta wasn’t making this story up… It’s straight out of the bible — a New Testament story with deep roots in the First Testament. Jesus is reminding us here of our biblical heritage… in the wilderness and on the mountain and at the time of Passover. Major history markers scattered throughout the story. And this multiplication of loaves and fishes is the only miracle, other than Jesus’ resurrection, recorded in all four gospels. Signifying it’s deep importance for us still… (Let’s tune in again to the story:) Jesus and disciples have crossed over to the other side of the lake — the Sea of Galilee — going from the Galilean Jewish side of the lake over to the Gentile side, the less familiar shore. (This story is also about crossing cultural borders — bringing the story of Israel’s God to neighbours long estranged.) People have seen Jesus healing many, working powerful signs — giving clear evidence of the power of God at work. Now they’re following Jesus, most of them probably walking up and around the far northern tip of the lake, others perhaps going across in boats, following to see what Jesus might do next. Like me in my early twenties, most of them probably...

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August 10, 2014 – Family portrait

Romans 8:35-39 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Genesis 37:1-13 Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a coat of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him. Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words. He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?” So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind. Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” Genesis 37:18-36 They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer.Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.”Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand...

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