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 »

Cherished in the name

May 25th, 2017

28 May 2017
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Easter 7A (RCL)
Acts 1:6-14
Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36
1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
John 12:1-11

On this Sunday, after the Feast of the Ascension, the readings turn our attention toward Jesus’ continuing presence with the Church, and toward the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost. The first letter of Peter mentions the spirit which rests on us when we are reviled for the name of Jesus. The passage from John’s Gospel speaks of Jesus’ glorification in the presence of the Father with the glory he had before the creation of the world. In Jesus’ glorification, we too are glorified, if we treasure the word Jesus has given us. God will cherish us (treasure us) in the divine name God has given to Jesus. Read the rest of this entry »

The spirit of truth

May 18th, 2017

21 May 2017
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Easter 6A (RCL)
Acts 17:22-31
Psalm 66:7-18
1 Peter 3:13-22
John 14:15-21

An odd theme runs through all three readings (and even the psalm). Each of them uses the setting of a trial to advance its point: Paul is brought to the Areopagus, for a trial much like Socrates'; 1 Peter exhorts us always to be ready to give a defense of the hope that is in us; and in John, Jesus promises us another Advocate (defense attorney), the spirit of truth. I suppose if we are not living our Christianity in a way that brings us at least into implicit conflict with the values of the surrounding culture, we’re not doing it right. Read the rest of this entry »

The glory of God

May 11th, 2017

14 May 2017
Fifth Sunday of Easter
Easter 5A (RCL)
Acts 7:55-60
Psalm 31 1-5, 15-16
1 Peter 2:2-10
John 14:1-14

We get a very short snippet of a reading from the Book of Acts, relating the stoning of Stephen. It comes at the end of a sermon by him, in which he indicts the people of constantly having mistreated those whom God has sent to lead them, including this Jesus. On trial, Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit gazes into have and sees the Glory of God with Jesus standing at the right hand of the glory. This is reminiscent of Daniel’s vision of the Ancient of Days, and one like a son of man. It is also one of the passages in the NT that can be read in support of a Trinitarian theology. Luke makes many connections between this event and Jesus’ own crucifixion — the trial, Stephen’s prayer of forgiveness and even people taking off their coats and throwing them on the ground (cf. the triumphal entry). Stephen’s death is, in its own way, redemptive — by not holding the sin of mistreating those God sends against his own persecutors. Read the rest of this entry »