Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lectionary Notes for Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 13, Ordinary 18, Year C)

Readings for 11th Sunday After Pentecost, 8/4/13: 
Hosea 11:1-11, Psalm 107:1-9, 43, Colossians 3:1-11, Luke 12:13-21
also: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23, Psalm 49:1-12

Hosea 11:1-11:
  • This is in some ways a very pretty passage, filled with metaphors of God's love for Israel as a parent for a child. Unfortunately, it seems only after strong impulses to destroy the naughty children that God's compassion finally wins out!
  • Israel has been a wayward child: "The more I called them, the more they went from me." Do we react to God's call this way? Insisting on going the opposite direction as soon as we realize what God wants from us? I know my nephew, Sam, is more likely to get in some last bits of "naughtiness" as soon as he realizes his parents want him to do something else. Are we like that? 
  • "How can I hand you over, O Israel? . . . My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender." This inner dialogue of God's, while in some ways frustrating in its too-far humanization of God in my mind, makes the effect of our actions on God come alive. Imagine how frustrated a parent is with a child who refuses to listen, refuses protection, refuses to behave. How much the parent just wants to get through to the child, but how much, too, the parent can never let go of the love for the child that comes first.
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23
  • Ecclesiastes is a thought-provoking little book, and this passage is a good illustration of why. In the end, I can't read this selection and come up in agreement with the Teacher - I always convince myself that through God's grace we overcome the hopelessness expressed here. But there is such profound thought in the Teacher's words - a challenge to us.
  • Vanity, vanities. "I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind." What gives our life meaning, really? What makes it more than "chasing after wind?" I suspect there are probably only very few things that truly give us meaning in life. God is our meaning-maker.
  • The words of the Teacher seem filled with depression. In the end, that's why I have to turn back to the gospel - indeed, the man building the barns in Luke seemed to miss the vanity of his actions. But the gospel lesson suggests that a life lived in a different way, with different priorities, will yield a less fruitless result.
Psalm 107:1-9, 43:
  • Theme of the psalm: God's love is steadfast.
  • Steadfast, according to dictionary.com is "Firmly fixed or established; fast fixed; firm. 2. Not fickle or wavering; constant; firm; resolute; unswerving; steady. God's love for us is constant and unwavering. Take comfort!
  • God satisfies us, satisfies our needs, hunger and thirst in the physical sense, but spiritual needs as well.
Psalm 49:1-12:
  • Keeping theme with the gospel lesson, this Psalm focuses on riches/wealth, etc.
  • Warning: don't turst in your wealth, in the abundance of your riches. "No ransom avails for one's life." So well put! Nothing can be exchanged that equals the value of a life in God's eyes. In the end, the wealthy perish too, "and leave their wealth to others."
Colossians 3:1-11:
  • Paul talks about "the things that are above" - earthly things, as opposed to heavenly thing. Earthly things are the vices like evil, greed, etc., heavenly things are those in us now that we are in Christ.
  • How does Paul's differentiation of heavenly and earthly things fit in with Christ's teachings about the kingdom of God being at hand, present, here among us on earth? Did God, who created all that is, pronounce even this earthly creation as good? I understand what Paul is getting at - the things that occupy our lives ought to change as a result of our knowing Christ. But I don't see Christ-like things and earthly-things as in direct opposition of one another....
  • "but Christ is all and in all." With that I can agree. But it is not just as simple a statement as it seems, easy to skip over. Read: Christ is all. That's a pretty big claim with big consequences for how we understand ourselves!
Luke 12:13-21:
  • This is the text of the first sermon I ever preached, so it holds a special place in my heart! This year will mark the 12th anniversary of my first ever sermon, and I'll be preaching on this text for the 5th time. This is one of my favorite passages, too. I think because it was the first, it has really crept into my heart and settled there. 
  • "One's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions." Such a simple statement. Such a powerful statement. Look around your home. Do you believe that your life is more than what you see piled up around you? I remember as I was shopping to fill my huge first parsonage with things so it wouldn't look quite so empty that these words from Luke were echoing loudly in my ears. "These things that you have, whose will they be?" DVDs, CDs, computers, phones, trinkets with no purpose. What does my life, your life, consist of? In my own home there are two computers, two TVs, two DVRs, countless DVDs, books, CDs, trinkets galore, and on, and on. I don't think I live extravagantly. Yet, it seems like I'm always buying just one more storage bin for the *stuff* I accumulate...
  • "Rich toward God." What does that mean? How are we rich toward God? I think Jesus is talking about a lot more than giving money to our places of worship. That isn't exactly something he talks about a lot, honestly. Money, yes. Giving to worship centers, not so much. So how are we rich toward God? What does that mean to you? 
  • "Relax, eat, drink, be merry." Isn't that kind of the American dream? The human dream? To be so well off we don't have to worry about our needs ever? How counter-cultural is the message of Jesus? We're always trying to make his message fit with our culture's messages and world views. But Jesus is going a different direction, friends. 
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