This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on October 15, 2017.
It’s one thing to ask why Jesus had to die. It’s another thing to ask why they killed Jesus. If you want to get a strong sense of why some wanted Jesus dead, read Matthew 21 and 22. Chapter 21 begins with Jesus’ Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem, where crowds enthusiastically proclaimed “blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” (21:9) This was followed by Jesus clearing the temple as he told religious leaders they’d turned his Father’s house into a den of robbers, the cursing of a non-fruit bearing fig tree, a seeming symbol of God’s non-fruit bearing people, and an inquisition regarding his own authority that morphed into an uneasy exchange with the religious leaders about the authority of his now dead cousin, John the Baptist. All of this just before Jesus pulls three parabolic arrows from his quiver and aims them squarely between the eyes of the Jewish leadership.
These are parables of judgments. The first concludes with Jesus telling religious leaders that prostitutes and tax collectors were entering God’s Kingdom before them, the second accuses them of rejecting God’s prophets and God’s son, and then just in case he hadn’t been clear enough, Jesus offers them this story of a wedding feast. Some of his parables delivered his meaning slowly, subtly. Not this one. It is intentionally diaphanous. The religious leaders already know “he is talking about them.” (21:45) Now everyone listening should know Jesus’ view of God, God’s preferences and God’s perspective are dangerously different than the religious voices to which they’d become accustomed.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on August 13, 2017.
We’ve all had that feeling: when a costly misstep leads us to question our place in the home, at work, or in society. For many of us, most days are filled with confidence—we feel we are doing a good job of parenting and being a good spouse; we are living up to the expectations of our employers, and we are serving our society in commendable ways. But then comes the blunder that leads to sharp self-criticism; the missed goals and targets for the year that causes us to question whether we are up to the task; or the bad news about our children that raises questions about our parenting or our marriage. We work hard and strive to be a success at everything we do, but any of the above can lead to even the most confident among us asking whether we are good enough. We can become gripped and overwhelmed by the shame we work so hard to avoid. When our lives are built on doing and achieving, failure to produce successful works can result in shame.
In Romans 10:5-15 Paul contrasts the type of righteousness that Israel has sought to achieve through the Law with the type that God has provided through faith. The former type of righteousness Paul labels as being generated from human effort; according to Paul, Israel sought to establish her own righteousness (Romans 10:3). This type of righteousness is pursued through human effort, and it is achieved through fulfilling the requirements of the Law. In Paul’s own words, this is a righteousness “that comes from the Law” (Romans 10:5); it comes by a person doing and living by the Law. But such righteousness can be far from many, especially for those who do not lay claim to the Law by birth. In this pericope, one of Paul’s biggest issues with this type of righteousness is that it is not “near” to everyone. And by this Paul reiterates a point he has made earlier in Romans that the Law is the possession of only one group—the Jews. Thus, if righteousness is based on the Law, then it would leave out non-Jews, and this would, in turn, suggest that God is a God of Jews only: “Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith” (Romans 3:29-30). In other words, God has to have a basis for establishing righteousness that would apply equally to both Jews and Gentiles. This is what Paul calls in Romans 10 “the righteous that comes from faith” (Romans 10:6).
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on October 23rd, 2016.
This sermon series began three weeks ago in Lamentations 1:1-6 and ends this week in Joel 2:23-32. This series allows the pastor to trace the arc of redemption as told through Israel’s story with God. This is the foundation of Christ’s coming, through which this story finds its fruition and fulfillment. Such a series permits a congregation to re-engage the movement of their own life with God through this story, starting in Lamentations with disorientation over their sin and its consequences. This confrontation with sin is necessary if a church is to engage in the faithful application of hope toward Joel’s vision of life and land indwelled with the presence of the Spirit.
Last week, in Jeremiah 31, the text focused on the promise of renewed relationship and renewed covenant. Such a promise is hope on the move, God approaching people to establish relational wholeness, expressed in human relationships and covenant life with God. Today’s passage provides the people of God with a vivid image of the reality of that day. Such a day combines the fruition of created existence with the life-quickening reality of the Spirit of God. The prophet Joel thus communicates an earthly spirituality, one that joins heaven and earth. To illustrate this reality, today’s passage shows that the fear of agricultural loss gives way to abundance. Joel expertly ties such abundance to life in the Spirit, poured out on all people. Joel is written to the nation of Judah, likely after the fall of the northern kingdom. The prophet centers his message around common themes, such as “repentance, guilt, and punishment”. However, the prophet makes sure to balance a word of warning with the promise of God’s rescue and restoration.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on July 24, 2016.
“I need you to pray for me.” “How can I pray for you?” “Can you add my friend to your prayer list?” “I don’t know what to pray.” These and other statements on prayer can be heard at any church on any given Sunday. Obviously people believe prayer is important, but why then is praying such a struggle for people? Many of us are, or at least we know people who are, Prayer Warriors. Why do their prayers seem so natural and powerful? Is it a learned skill? Is it a sign of spiritual maturity? Can anyone learn to pray like Jesus? After observing Jesus praying one day, his own followers asked him to teach them to pray. Jesus answered his disciples in Luke 11:2-4, with what we refer to as the Lord’s Prayer, or the model prayer. Jesus covered a lot of ground in this prayer, from honoring the Father, to asking for God’s forgiveness. Jesus never intended this prayer to be the only way we pray, or that these words should be recited at every prayer. More importantly than the form, he called attention to the importance of praying regularly. He stated, “When you pray,” not if you pray; He had an expectation that his followers would pray. Jesus set the example by being a man of prayer, and by giving instructions on how to pray.