Hear the Spirit: Proper 15A

Readings and supplemental resources for Proper 15A in the RCL

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

August 16, 2020 | Pentecost +11

Collect for Proper 15

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. ~BCP 232

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8 NRSV

In our opening lesson the Lord exhorts the people to do what is just because the time of righteous salvation is close at hand. The temple will be a house of prayer for all nations. This vision of hope emphasizes the outgoing aspects of Israel’s faith. Historically it deals with the fact that after the exile certain non-Israelites had come to live in Jerusalem and serve in the temple. The passage sets the conditions for their participation, but also looks beyond to a day when many peoples will worship the God of Israel.

9 1 Thus says the Lord: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.

6 And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant— 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. 8 Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32 NRSV

In this reading Paul sets forth his belief that God plans to bring Jews as well as Gentiles to salvation. This apostle to the Gentiles continues to wrestle with a difficult question: why is it that so many of Jesus’ own people have not accepted him as the Christ? God has not rejected the Jewish people who were foreknown, yet now Jews and Gentiles are equal in that all have been disobedient to God. In the next step the Jewish people will see the mercy shown to the Gentiles and want themselves to share in it in their own way.

1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.

29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. 32 For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

Matthew 15:[10-20], 21-28 NRSV

In our gospel Jesus teaches that the thoughts and intentions of the human heart are paramount. Jesus warns against such blind guides preoccupied with externals. He then travels beyond the boundaries of Israel to the territory of Tyre and Sidon and encounters a Canaanite woman who beseeches him to heal her daughter. The first Christians were unsure whether they were to offer the faith to non-Jews, and the give-and-take in this story may reflect that uncertainty. Jesus sees his own mission as confined to Israel, but the woman’s faith causes him to give her the bread she asks for. Symbolically it is the saving food of the gospel which heals her daughter.

[10 Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” 12 Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” 13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” 15 But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” 16 Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19 For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”]

21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.”

23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”

24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”

26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

And her daughter was healed instantly.

Psalm 67 BCP 675

A prayer for God’s graciousness and saving power, and a bidding of praise by all people for God’s justice and bounty.

1 May God be merciful to us and bless us, * show us the light of his countenance and come to us.

2 Let your ways be known upon earth, * your saving health among all nations.

3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; * let all the peoples praise you.

4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, * for you judge the peoples with equity and guide all the nations upon earth.

5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; * let all the peoples praise you.

6 The earth has brought forth her increase; * may God, our own God, give us his blessing.

7 May God give us his blessing, * and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.

Supplemental Material

Music unquestionably heightens emotional experiences. Can one imagine watching an epic film without its sound-track? Spiritual experiences are similar: the music enhances the liturgical drama of a particular moment in the service or season. The worshipper is moved by what he or she hears, and—consequently—feels.

Matthew Hoch in Welcome to Church Music & The Hymnal 1982

When we can again worship in person we may not (for health and safety reasons) be able to sing together. In the quiet of the coronavirus, let us pay attention to the hymns we used to and one day will sing together. I invite you to sing at home. Sing when at work. Sing when at play (or even at rest). In our Service of Readings and Prayer this Sunday we’ll use 2 hymns celebrating and giving thanks for God’s inclusive grace and love—what we hear in our readings. Feel the words of scripture. ~Fr. Dan

IN CHRIST THERE IS NO EAST OR WEST

John Oxenham, 1852–1941

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

One of the clear teachings of the Bible is that the gospel does not presuppose the superiority of any race or culture. In the past, missionary endeavor has too frequently imposed “our” culture on others while spreading the gospel, often putting native believers in bondage to another culture rather than to Christ and the Scriptures alone.

Written in 1908 by the noted English writer, John Oxenham, this missionary hymn text was part of a script for a pageant at a giant missionary event sponsored by the London Missionary Society’s exhibition, The Orient in London. It is estimated that over a quarter of a million people viewed this presentation. It was continued from 1908–1914 both in England and in the United States.

An interesting account of the impact of this hymn relates an incident during the closing days of World War II when two ships were anchored together, one containing Japanese aliens, and the other American soldiers, all waiting to be repatriated. For an entire day they lined the rails, glaring at one another. Suddenly someone began to sing “In Christ There Is No East Or West.” Then another on the opposite ship joined in. Soon there was an extraordinary chorus of former enemies unitedly praising God with these words:

In Christ there is no East or West, in him no South or North, but one great fellowship of love thru out the whole wide earth.

In Him shall true hearts ev’rywhere their high communion find; His service is the golden cord close-binding all mankind.

Join hands then, brothers of the faith, whate’er your race may be; who serves my Father as a son is surely kin to me.

In Christ now meet both East and West, in Him meet South and North; all Christly souls are one in Him throughout the whole wide earth.

Words from “Bees in Amber” by John Oxenham

Source: Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996) [January 25]

THERE’S A WIDENESS IN GOD’S MERCY

Frederick W. Faber, 1814–1863

But Thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. (Psalm 86:15 KJV)

A wealth of truth about the depth of God’s love and mercy is expressed simply but eloquently in this choice two-line hymn text written by Frederick William Faber in the middle of the 19th century. In addition to being known as a man with unusual personal charm, persuasive preaching ability, and excellent writing skills, Faber made his most lasting contribution with the 150 hymn texts he composed during his brief life of 49 years.

Frederick Faber had an unusual spiritual journey. Raised as a strict Calvinist, he strongly opposed the Roman Catholic Church. After education at Oxford, he became an ordained Anglican minister. Gradually, however, he was influenced by the Oxford Movement, which stressed that Anglican churches had become too evangelical—with too little emphasis on formal and liturgical worship. Eventually Faber renounced the Anglican State Church, became a Catholic priest, and spent his remaining years as Superior of the Catholic Brompton Oratory in London.

Faber had always realized the great influence that hymn singing had in Protestant evangelical churches. Determined to provide material for Catholics to use in the same way, he worked tirelessly in writing hymns and publishing numerous collections of them. In 1854 the Pope honored Frederick Faber with an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in recognition of his many accomplishments. Today we are still grateful for this memorable declaration of the boundless love and mercy of our God to all mankind:

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea; there’s a kindness in His justice, which is more than liberty.

There is welcome for the sinner, and more graces for the good; there is mercy with the Savior; there is healing in His blood.

For the love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind; and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.

If our love were but more simple, we should take Him at His word; and our lives would be all sunshine in the sweetness of our Lord.

Source: Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996) [June 9]

Source Material

View or Download the Proper 15A Study Handout

NRSV: Bible Gateway website

Book of Common Prayer (BCP): justus.anglican.org

Introductions to the Readings are from the book  Introducing the Lessons of the Church Year, 3rd Ed.  (Kindle Edition) by Frederick Borsch and George Woodward.

Matthew Hoch. Welcome to Church Music & The Hymnal 1982. New York: Morehouse Publishing, 2015.

Image: Limbourg, Herman de, approximately 1385-approximately 1416; Limbourg, Jean de, approximately 1385-approximately 1416; Limbourg, Pol de, approximately 1385-approximately 1416. The Canaanite Woman asks for healing for her daughter, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55920 [retrieved August 12, 2020]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Folio_164r_-_The_Canaanite_Woman.jpg.

Hear the Spirit: Proper 14A

Readings and supplemental resources for Proper 14A in the RCL

Peter’s rescue from the Lake Galilee, 1925
Mural in Cathedral of Maria Saal by Herbert Boecki (1894-1966)

August 9, 2020 | Pentecost +10

Collect for Proper 14

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.~BCP 232

1 Kings 19:9-18 NRSV

The reading from the Hebrew Bible tells how God is made known to Elijah—not in wind, earthquake, or fire—but in a still small voice. In a mood of depression the prophet retreats to Mount Horeb. But the Lord gives him a new mission and a promise that there will be a remnant in Israel who will not worship the false god Baal. Although God is known in a word of revelation rather than in the awesome events of nature, these happenings can also be seen as harbingers of God’s presence.

9 At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16 Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. 17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

Romans 10:5-15 NRSV

In this lesson Paul teaches that the word of faith is a gift; by it we make our saving confession that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead. Without God’s grace the way of righteousness would be impossibly distant. But the faith that leads to righteousness is in our hearts and the confession of salvation is on our lips. This is true for all people, no matter what their background, and so it is essential that the Good News be carried far and wide, that all may call upon the name of the Lord.

5 Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say?

“The word is near you,

on your lips and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 becauseif you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Matthew 14:13-21 NRSV

The gospel is the story of Jesus’ walking on the water and his rescue of Peter after his faith fails him. The narrative has several levels of meaning. In legendary terms Jesus is like the Creator God who strides over the watery chaos monster. Matthew’s gospel stresses this revelation of Jesus’ close relationship with God, as God’s Son, and the importance of faith on the part of the disciples. A church beset by its own problems and lack of faith would be glad to perceive in this story the saving presence of its risen Lord.

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Psalm 85:8-13 BCP 709

The psalmist both celebrates and prays for the Lord’s gracious favor, forgiveness, deliverance, and justice.

8 I will listen to what the Lord God is saying, *
for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to him.

9 Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, *
that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together; *
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth, *
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The Lord will indeed grant prosperity, *
and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him, *
and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

Supplemental Material

when Peter noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. —Matthew 14:30-32

The Gospel story for this Sunday lends itself to reading the Bible as Jesus did. Intrigued? Read on. ~Fr. Dan

Midrash

The best way in which a Christian can interpret Scripture is to do so as Jesus did! It almost sounds too simple, doesn’t it? Yet, ironically, this has not been the norm for most of Christianity. So, what does it mean to read the Bible as Jesus did?

Jesus approached the Hebrew Scriptures with the assumption that God had been dialoging with humanity since the beginning. He used the Jewish practice of midrash as a way of participating in this dialogue. Midrash is a method of interpreting Scripture that fills in the gaps, by questioning and imagining a multitude of possible interpretations. Midrash allows the text and the Spirit of God to open up the reader to transformation, instead of resisting change by latching onto one final, closed, and certain interpretation. This open-horizon approach was common for most of the first 1300 years of Christianity, where as many as six levels of interpretation and numerous levels of truth were perceived in any one Scripture text.

The traditional forms of midrash demand both a prayerful approach and scholarly familiarity with the Bible and commentaries which have formed the tradition over the centuries. However, it is possible for someone who is not a biblical scholar or theologian to get a sense of the practice of midrash.

The following practice, drawn from Teresa Blythe’s book 50 Ways to Pray, offers an interactive experience with the Bible through openness, contemplative attitude, and critical thinking. This practice invites us to trust that God will meet us where we are and will take us where we need to go as we consider the meaning of the text. We could engage in this dialogue often, even with the same text, since there will always be more discoveries about the meaning(s) of sacred texts.

Dialoguing with Scripture:

Choose one of the following Scriptures for reflection:

Choose Matthew 14:22-33 (or one of Richard Rohr’s suggestions here)

  • Exodus 1:8-22 — The Hebrew midwives fear God
  • Exodus 18:13-27 — Jethro’s advice to Moses
  • 1 Samuel 3 — The call of Samuel
  • Mark 9:14-29 — Jesus heals the afflicted boy
  • Luke 8:22-25 — Jesus calms a storm (see p. 6 of handout)
  • Luke 10:29-37 — The good Samaritan

Read (or listen to) your selected Scripture passage slowly. You may want to read (or hear) it more than once.

Consider which character in the story you would like to interact with. It could be a person you find agreeable, or a person with whom you want to question or debate. Who are you drawn to? When you decide on a character, write the name at the top [of a piece of] paper.

Hold an imaginary conversation—on paper—with the character in the story. You may want to stick with the theme of the Scripture and talk about that, or you may want to discuss other topics. It is completely up to you. Let your imagination roll free and see what transpires. (20 minutes)

When you are finished, read your dialogue out loud.

What is it like to have a conversation with a biblical figure? Why did you choose the character you chose? Did anything in the conversation surprise you? Did anything in the conversation move you? Did you feel any inner blocks to doing this sort of exercise? Did you feel the presence and guidance of God in the dialogue? What did you learn about yourself as you engaged this biblical figure? How easy or difficult is it for you to have these kinds of imaginary conversations? How useful would you say such conversations are for you?

End your reflection time with a prayer of gratitude for what you experienced.

Tip—You don’t have to be an excellent writer to enjoy this exercise. No one but you has to read what you’ve written. Just write from the heart and imagination. [1]

Source: Daily Email Meditation from Richard Rohr. Richard Rohr Meditation: Church: Old and New: Weekly Summary on November 1, 2019.

[1] Teresa A. Blythe, 50 Ways to Pray: Practices from Many Traditions and Times (Abingdon Press: 2006), 17-18.

Source Material

View or Download the Proper 14A Study Handout

NRSV: Bible Gateway website

Book of Common Prayer (BCP): justus.anglican.org

Introductions to the Readings are from the book  Introducing the Lessons of the Church Year, 3rd Ed.  (Kindle Edition) by Frederick Borsch and George Woodward.

Image: Boeckl, Herbert, 1894-1966. Peter’s rescue from the Lake Galilee, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57448 [retrieved August 6, 2020]. Original source: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maria_Saal_Herbert_Boeckl_Fresko_27102006_Ausschnitt.jpg.

Hear the Spirit: Proper 13A

The readings for Proper 13A Track 2 in the Revised Common Lectionary

Be well. Do good. Pay attention. Keep learning.

Listen. What do YOU hear the Spirit saying in these readings?

Collect for Proper 13
(August 2, 2020)

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.~BCP 232

Isaiah 55:1-5 NRSV

In this reading we hear how the return from exile will be a time of prosperity and abundance when God’s covenant will be renewed. The prophet pictures the great day: for a people who have been near death there will be food and drink without cost. God’s covenant with David is to be extended to all Israel, and other nations will come to see her glory.

1 Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3 Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. 4 See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. 5 See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.

Romans 9:1-5 NRSV

In this reading Paul expresses his anguish and sorrow that so many of the children of Israel, the people especially favored by God, have not found the Lord’s promise. To them belong the covenants, the law, and so much else. From their nation Christ himself came. Paul would go to great lengths, even see himself an outcast, if such would help Israel to know its salvation. Later in this letter Paul tries to explain how this all may be part of God’s plan of redemption, which in the end will include Israel with the Gentiles.

1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; 5 to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Matthew 14:13-21 NRSV

Our gospel is the story of Jesus’ feeding of over five thousand persons. After the death of John the Baptist, Jesus seeks a time of retreat. The crowds, however, follow him, and he has compassion on them. The narrative suggests many levels of meaning. It recalls Old Testament stories, especially God’s feeding of the Israelites with manna in the wilderness, and points forward to the legendary banquet at the end of time where Christ the King will preside. The abundant miracle illustrates Jesus’ lordship; he is intimate with the powers of creation. Other themes associated with the Eucharist are close at hand.

13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Psalm 145:8-9, 15-22 BCP 802

A hymn of praise to the Lord, who is mighty in deeds yet tender and compassionate.

8 The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, *
slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 The Lord is loving to everyone *
and his compassion is over all his works.

15 The Lord upholds all those who fall; *
he lifts up those who are bowed down.

16 The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, *
and you give them their food in due season.

17 You open wide your hand *
and satisfy the needs of every living creature.

18 The Lord is righteous in all his ways * and loving in all his works.

19 The Lord is near to those who call upon him, *
to all who call upon him faithfully.

20 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; *
he hears their cry and helps them.

21 The Lord preserves all those who love him, *
but he destroys all the wicked.

22 My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord; *
let all flesh bless his holy Name for ever and ever.

Resources

View or Download the Proper 13A Study Handout

NRSV: Bible Gateway website

Book of Common Prayer (BCP): justus.anglican.org

Introductions to the Readings are from the book  Introducing the Lessons of the Church Year, 3rd Ed.  (Kindle Edition) by Frederick Borsch and George Woodward.

Who is my neighbor?

In the Forum on Sunday (9/4) we considered Paul’s wisdom “The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Romans 8:9

In a previous post I shared a “spiritual exercise” with you and invited you to, well . . . exercise. In the Forum we discussed the notion of “neighbor.” Of course, “Who is my neighbor?” was the question put to Jesus who answered by telling the story of the Good Samaritan and then asked the questioner (at the conclusion of the story) “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” Luke 10:36 “The one who showed mercy” was the (correct) answer and Jesus instructed his questioner (a lawyer) to go and do likewise.

Within the Forum as we wrestled with the question ourselves some began with the “neighbor” they could see and touch and interact with—beginning in their own families. To love this flesh and blood neighbor was their challenge. Others looked into the immediate community—the homeless, the hungry, even the violent—as the neighbor they were called to love. Still others looked into the “whole world” and included “enemies” in their neighborhood. All this to say that there are many answers to this question and that the best place to start to answer is the place you find yourself in right now.

Jesus through his stories, through his teaching, in his life and in his death opened his heart and opened his arms wide enough to embrace all who came to be in his presence, beginning with the flesh and blood family into which he was born, the flesh and blood group of disciples he gathered around him, and then he kept expanding his embrace until he opened his arms wide upon the cross and embraced us all. He sent his apostles and disciples into the whole world. Over the centuries, at our best, we the church have understood our mission as being an inclusive mission. At our worst we have drawn boundaries and counted some in and some out (and sadly this practice continues into our own day).

Let’s behave well, be on our best, as we answer the question, “Who is my neighbor” for ourselves. We have lots of information, now we need to match that with our actions.

9/11 story shows the way to bring Paul’s words to life

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good
—Paul to the Romans a long time ago

“Do something extraordinary!” was probably not in the mind or heart of Susan Retik as she grieved the loss of her husband in the events of 9/11. Susan was pregnant with their third child, at home in Boston, when she heard that her husband had died as United Flight 11 was crashed into the North Tower in New York by terrorists.

At the right time, however, she and Patti Quigley, another 9/11 widow, did something extraordinary. Together they started Beyond the 11th Foundation. The Foundation helps widows in Afghanistan to earn a living to support their families.

We have presented Susan’s story here: Is it possible to forgive? It is the subject of a documentary, Beyond Belief, available on DVD (and streaming on Netflix). I bring her story to your attention again after reading it again in USA Today: “Lessons from one widow to another

As we prepare for Sunday (8/28/11) I offer this to you: What Susan and Patti did in the sorrow and grief following 9/11 was (purposefully or not) to give flesh and blood, voice and touch, to the words of the Apostle Paul: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

In our day with the 24/7 stream of news about evil and its aftermath it is so tempting to do nothing because the evil is so great and so pervasive. Long ago Paul spoke words to shatter such temptation, inaction, and defeat. In our own country, in our own day, Susan and Patti have not only spoken the same words but they have acted, they have done something extraordinary, to shatter the same temptation and defeatist attitude. They continue to work to overcome evil with good. And so must we.

Some questions to considerWhat small, ordinary, commonplace action are you called to share in order to overcome evil with good? What community, working to overcome evil with good, are you invited to join (for many together can do more than one alone)? To what community do you already belong where, working together, you strive to overcome evil with good? How will you overcome evil with good in your own time, with the skills you have, in the time you have, in the place you are? Be sure to leave a comment here to encourage me and others.

Well. . . what do you think?

This week we have (haven’t we?) been thinking about Spiritual Gifts (the main topic of conversation on Sunday Morning in the Forum). Rather than cite scholarly sources (which I have been reading), rather than offering extensive quotes, I will offer my current understanding of Spiritual Gifts as an invitation for you to also share.

You and I do not have to be experts, scholars, or theologians, to have an opinion and an understanding by which we live our faith—though it is helpful to let these opinions and understandings mature as they guide us (i.e., let them change as we gain more experience and understanding).

For brevity I will offer an “Executive Summary” of my current understanding. This is not meant to be exhaustive or the definitive “last word” on the topic of Spiritual Gifts—you know, I’m still learning a lot.

  • Everyone, including me, is gifted by God in some way
  • Gifted by God is foundational: God chooses which Spiritual Gift to offer, God takes the initiative, always
  • We choose to accept the gift or not (we always have this freedom, another gift of God’s initiative)
  • We choose to exercise the gift or not (don’t you love this gift of free will?). My own experience tells me that the choice to exercise the gift (or not) ebbs and flows like a tide (though not so regularly). Sometimes I do this easily and well and for a prolonged period (you could float a boat); at other times it is as if I have amnesia (or sloth) and the gift is not used (that boat is mired in the tidal mud).
  • The Spiritual Gift is meant (by God) to be used for the well-being of the Body of Christ (=the Church) and for the welfare of all God’s people and all of God’s creation (=the world). It is not meant to be hoarded, it is not meant to a personal delight nor a self-esteem booster—it is meant to be shared for the good of all (inside and outside the Church, indeed, to be shared for the good of all creation).
  • I’m still working out what the Spiritual Gifts are (according to our “teachers” in the Bible and in our Christian Tradition). As you heard Stan mention on Sunday there are multiple internet resources for exploring the meaning of and kinds of Spiritual Gifts.
  • Believing the Church (at its best) to be organic, living, changing, adapting—the “Body” of Christ—the gifts (from God) are meant to part of an organic whole, not part of some grand Organizational Flow Chart.
  • Closely linked to the organic nature of the Church is that the local church may need different gifts at different times (as communities and their needs change) so I believe a couple of things can happen: the gift you’re given changes to meet the new needs and/or new members are brought into the community with the necessary gifts to meet the new (changing) needs.

That’s probably enough for now. What do you think? What would you like to add (for me and others)? How can we grow together in our understanding of God’s generosity? Leave a comment, please. Let’s see where the Spirit will lead us.

About flesh and body

As we continue to read in Paul’s Letter to the Romans we find a passage filled with words that made sense to the first audience without a lot of explanation, but which need some interpretation in 2011. Here is an excerpt opening the English words “flesh” and “body” as used by Paul in Greek in this letter and in his theology. Walter F. Taylor, Jr. is the Ernest W. and Edith F. Ogram Professor of New Testament Studies at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, OH.

Our text [Romans 8:1-11] uses several times the word flesh, making what seem to be almost nonsensical statements such as “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (verse 8).  If that is the reality, why even try to live in God-pleasing ways?  The key is what Paul means by flesh (sarks).  To understand his usage, we turn first to its apparent twin, body (soma).  For Paul the body is neither good nor bad in and of itself.  The issue is how the body is used.  When the body is used as God intended, the body is good.  But when the body is used inappropriately and opposed to God’s intention, it is for Paul a sinful body.  Paul’s shorthand expression for a body that is misused is the term flesh.  And so to live inappropriately is called living according to the flesh (kata sarka).  Read more about Paul’s theology. (Select “2nd Reading” tab)

What helps you to live fully for God? How has your living for God changed over the years? What kinds of “grown up” things do you do as you seek to know and do God’s will?

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