What do we owe?

October 19th, 2017

22 October 2017
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 24A (RCL)

Exodus 33:13-23
Psalm 99
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22

So Israel, who had been no people when slaves in Egypt, and had become God’s people in the wilderness, messed up badly with the golden calf. At the opening of Chapter 33 of Exodus, God says that God will send an angel before the people as the ‘go up’ to land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but the divine self will not go up with them, because they are a stiff necked people. This presents the ultimate crisis for Israel’s existence — without God’s presence, they are no people. Read the rest of this entry »

What place vengeance?

October 12th, 2017

15 October 2017
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 23A (RCL)

Exodus 32:1-14
Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23
Philippians 4:1-9
Matthew 22:1-14

For all his effort to find a way for Gentiles to live by the spirit of the law as they join the Christian community, and his assurance that the spirit of the law will stand unaltered, Matthew has a harsh attitude toward his fellow religionists, the Jews. This parable, read as an allegory, clearly suggests that the destruction of Jerusalem was due to the failure of the Jews (those first invited, a word very similar in Greek to “chosen” or “elect”) to come to the wedding feast of the Son. In line with the parable of the vineyard, we might call this Matthew’s sour grapes. Read the rest of this entry »

Whose vineyard?

October 5th, 2017

8 October 2017
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 22A (RCL)
Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
Psalm 19
Philippians 3:4b-14
Matthew 21:33-46

Urrrf. This ‘parable’ clearly promotes a supercessionist understanding of the relationship of Christianity to Judaism. For Israel’s failure to render the fruit of the vineyard to God, God will give the vineyard to other tenants. The vineyard, of course, refers to Isaiah 5:1-7, and the fruit of the vineyard is to be justice and peace. The stream of servants who come to ask for the fruit lines up with the prophets in the Wisdom myth. Israel persecuted the prophets (cf. the Jerusalem, Jerusalem saying in Matthew’s Gospel). Read the rest of this entry »

By what authority?

September 28th, 2017

1 October 2017
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 21A (RCL)
Exodus17:1-7
Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16
Philippians 2:1-13
Matthew 21:23-32

The religious authorities ask Jesus by what authority he does “these things.” In our lectionary, we have skipped over “these things” in question; Jesus had ‘cleansed’ the Temple – overturned the tables of the money changers and chased out those selling the animals of sacrifice, and healed the blind and the lame. At the time of the feast (Passover) with so many many pilgrims in the city, “these things” would have created quite a stir. Read the rest of this entry »

Whatever is just

September 21st, 2017

24 September 2017
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 20A (RCL)
Exodus 16:2-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
Philippians 1:21-30
Matthew 20:1-16

We often read this parable as an assessment of the reaction of Jewish Christians to the admission of Gentiles into their fellowship. Much like the story of the prodigal in Luke, which aligns Jewish Christians with the older brother who has observed the father’s commandments, we align the Jewish Christians with those hired first in this parable, who have born the heat and burden of the day. These late comers receive the same reward, and the first are justifiable perturbed. In my evangelical days, we read this as a comment on death-bed conversions. This interpretation did not make the bulk of Christians very happy. Why not play around until the last minute? Read the rest of this entry »

Binding and loosing

August 24th, 2017

27 August 2017
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 16A (RCL)
Exodus 1:8 – 2:10
Psalm 124
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20

Just what exactly is Peter to bind and loose? Jesus will repeat this saying just two chapters later, after instructs the disciples on working out community disputes, so that it seems connected to community discipline. But when he says it to Peter, it is not necessarily in reference to forgiveness and reconciliation. Instead, it seems to interpret the saying about the gates of Hades not prevailing against the kingdom built upon the rock. Read the rest of this entry »

Crumbs

August 17th, 2017

20 August 2017
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 15A (RCL)
Genesis 45:1-15
Psalm 133
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Matthew 15:10-28

The incident of Jesus confronted by the Gentile woman makes us uncomfortable: surely Jesus would never have been so rude, right? He essentially calls this woman a dog, a deep insult. Both Matthew and Mark include the event, so it is likely Matthew copied it from Mark. Both also include a double set of miracles of sea crossing and feeding in the wilderness. This miracle happens between the second sea crossing and feeding. Read the rest of this entry »

Stepping out in faith

August 10th, 2017

13 August 2017
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 14A (RCL)
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b
Romans 10:5-15
Matthew 14:22-33

The pericope from Romans is chopped up and badly translated. In the first five verses of Chapter 10, Paul returns to the theme he opened in Chapter 9 – his desire for the salvation of the Jews, for their entry into this new covenant that includes Gentiles. He contrasts God’s righteousness to “their own” righteousness. The NRSV translates “God’s righteousness” as “the righteousness that comes from God.” This entirely misses the point. God’s righteousness implies God’s faithfulness to God’s covenantal obligations. God is righteous regardless of what we may do or not do. A “righteous of their own” could be translated “a righteousness distinct to them.” The phrase implies that the Jews took God’s covenantal loyalty and twisted it to mean that they alone were righteous in God’s eyes. Read the rest of this entry »

Divine transformation

August 3rd, 2017

6 August 2017
The Feast of the Transfiguration
Exodus 34:29-35
Psalm 99
2 Peter 1:13-21
Luke 9:28-36

The Feast of the Transfiguration, which falls on August 6, is classed by the Prayer Book as a feast of our Lord Jesus Christ, and as such, takes precedence over a Sunday. Consequently, we won’t read Proper 13 this year, but replace it with the Transfiguration. We’ll miss Matthew’s version of the feeding of the 5000. Read the rest of this entry »

Apprenticed to the kingdom

July 27th, 2017

30 July 2017
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 12A (RCL)
Genesis 29:15-28
Psalm 105:1-11, 45b
Romans 8:26-39
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

The trouble with chopping up readings from scripture is that we miss important contextual guides. In today’s Gospel reading, the first two parables are spoken to the crowds. Then we skip the verses where Jesus goes in the house and explains the parable of the wheat and the weeds to the disciples. The last three parables, and the instructions are spoken only to the disciples in the house — these are community instructions, while the first two are public proclamation. That changes the interpretation of each parable rather dramatically. Read the rest of this entry »