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 »

The covenant of holiness

July 20th, 2017

23 July 2017
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 11A (RCL)
Genesis 28:10-19a
Psalm 139:1-11, 22-23
Romans 8:12-25
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Paul is always a good place to start. In this passage, Paul speaks of the adoption of Christians as sons (he uses the image of sonship in the Greek, for theological purposes – Israel was God’s son; Jesus was God’s son; Christians are God’s son) as fundamentally important to the salvation of the entire cosmos. Just as the first humans were to be the stewards of the cosmos, so the covenant with Abraham was to restore the distorted relationship between humanity and the cosmos. Now, the revelation of the glory of Christians as heir of God and joint heirs with Christ will finally accomplish what the previous covenants have not been able to accomplish: the restoration of the glory of the cosmos. Read the rest of this entry »

God’s profligacy

July 13th, 2017

16 July 2017
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 10A (RCL)
Genesis25:19-34
Psalm 119:105-112
Romans 8:1-11
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

For Paul, the flesh is the arena in which we make distinctions between on and another: male/female, slave/free, Jew/Greek. Division is sin. We used the law to draw distinction, though it was intended to establish a righteousness, a community identity and cohesion. Therefore, in Christ, God did what the law couldn’t do, because we used it to draw distinction. He sent his son in sinful flesh to put the flesh (the realm of distinction) to death. And, now since we walk according to the Spirit, not the flesh, God has accomplished in us a new righteousness based on Jesus Christ, not on the law. Read the rest of this entry »

Keep it simple

July 6th, 2017

9 July 2017
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 9A (RCL)
Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Psalm 13
Romans 7:15-25a
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

The story in Genesis is rather shocking to our sensibilities; Abraham’s servant is certainly forward in putting a half-shekel gold ring in Rebekah’s nose, and two ten shekel gold bracelets on her wrists. And Laban is certainly forward in promising her to Isaac without her consent — although she does consent after the transaction has already been completed to go with Abraham’s servant right away, rather than waiting ten days. But the story certainly fits within a standard pattern in Old Testament literature (and even an instance in the New Testament) – betrothal at the well. Read the rest of this entry »

The obedience of Abraham

June 29th, 2017

2 July 2017
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 8A (RCL)
Genesis 22:1-14
Psalm 13
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

Ooof. This passage from Genesis has enjoyed (?) a long and troubled interpretation history. Soren Kierkegaard wrote his work Fear and Trembling as a reflection on this passage. Just one example of the ink spilled over this passage. Read the rest of this entry »

Call me Ishmael

June 22nd, 2017

25 June 2017
Third Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 7A (RCL)
Genesis 21:8-21
Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17
Romans 6:1b-11
Matthew 10:24-39

The lections are not happy ones. In an act of cruelty, Abraham sends away Hagar and her child, Ishmael. Jesus tells us that he has not come to bring peace but a sword. We do not like hearing these parts of scripture.

But I find something redemptive in these readings. Read the rest of this entry »

Trinitarian delight

June 7th, 2017

11 June 2017
Trinity Sunday
Trinity A (RCL)

Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Psalm 8
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Matthew 28:16-20

Paul Davies is an English cosmologist, teaching at the University of Arizona. He is interested in the question of why human beings perceive a “time arrow,” that is, why human beings perceive time as running from past to future. In all physical equations, time can run backward or forward without changing the nature of physical law (the second law of thermodynamics being the special case, but not enough to account for human perception). This questions is intimately tied to the question of the quantum measurement problem (what happens when human perception “measures” a quantum system; how does that perception cause the collapse of the wave function into an eigenstate?). Read the rest of this entry »

A new creation

June 1st, 2017

4 June 2017
The Feast of Pentecost
Pentecost A (RCL)
Numbers 11:24-31
Psalm 104:25-35, 37
Acts 2:1-21
John 20:19-23

It never ceases to amaze me that, after years of reading the same passages of scripture, one can notice something new each time. In the passage from John’s Gospel, the evangelist uses an unusual word to describe Jesus blowing on the disciples. The word is emphusao, which is what a flautist does to a flute. It occurs only here in the New Testament, but it occurs at least twice in the Old Testament in the LXX translation, once at Genesis 2:7 and once at 37:9. In Genesis, God forms the human being out of the dust of the earth, and then blows into its face the breath of life. In Ezekiel, God tells the prophet to prophecy to the spirit, telling it to come from the four winds and blow into slain. The evangelist wants us to connect this resurrection appearance to both of these events. Read the rest of this entry »