Easter 7C

image: Studies for 'The Conversion of the Jailer before Saint Paul and Silas' by Nicolas de Plattemontagne (wikimedia)


166: May 8, 2016

326: June 2, 2019

Voice in the Wilderness:Nicole Cox


Voice in the Wilderness:Christ Strickland 

Featured Musician: Christopher Grundy


Initial Thoughts

  • UCC Motto!

Bible Study

  • Context!

    • End of the Farewell Discourse- Jesus’ last words of prayer in the garden before the arrest

    • Jesus is praying to God, not talking to the disciples

    • “The Revised Common Lectionary apportions John 17 as follows: Year A, 17:1-11; Year B, 17:6-19; Year C, 17:20-26. These divisions roughly correspond to the three natural divisions of the prayer: Jesus prays for himself (17:1-5), for his disciples (17:6-19), and for future believers (17:20-26).” (Paul Simpson Duke, The Truet Pulpit)

  • Beyond the Disciples to All who will believe

    • This is not about the chosen few- but a blessing and invitation to all peoples

    • “Jesus’ prayer doesn’t stop with those seated at the table. “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.” Jesus is praying also for you and for me. We are the ones who have come to believe because of the disciples’ words. Jesus’ prayer hangs in the space between earth and heaven, between time past and time present and time yet to come. Jesus is praying that we will remain faithful and trust in the presence of the Holy Spirit.” (Barbara Lundbland, Working Preacher)

  • All may be one

    • Divisions constantly dividing the disciples:

      • Peter not wanting Jesus to talk about the crucifixion

      • James and John arguing who sits at the right and left hand

      • The disciples arguing who is the greatest

      • The disciples upset because others are casting out demons in Jesus’ name

    • Realistic?

      • Do we join Jesus in this prayer? Do we truly wish that the Christian church was one?

      • How can we begin to overcome Christian division? Conservative & Progressive, Mainline & Evangelical, Congregational & Episcopal, non-denominational & denominational, E&R UCC & Congregational UCC

      • The division of the churches is one of the worst witnesses to the Gospel

      • How can we hope to heal the world, when we cannot even heal the divisions in our own family?

      • To what extent can we have an authentic voice for forgiveness and reconciliation when we cannot be reconciled after centuries of division (and we continually reject new forms of the church- megachurch, Pentecostal, etc)?

      • Balance between prophetic witness and ecclesial unity

    • Reconciliation

      • “One in Christ, one in God, one in ministry and one in the world” - part of Communion Thanksgiving prayer

      • “It is a prayer for community. Jesus prays that, “all may be one.” To be a follower of Jesus is to be a part of a greater whole. According to Jesus there are to be no solitary Christians or spiritual “Lone Rangers.”…We are one in Christ whether we agree with each other or not. We are one in Christ whether we like one another or not. To become a part of Christ is to become a part of the community; a part of the one.”    Lucy Lind Hogan from workingpreacher.org.

  • Glory - what is glory?

    • Hebrews kabod - “Weight or heaviness”

    • Greek doxa - “opinion, judgement, honor, good reputation”

    • Fame and renown

    • If all we do is for the “glory of God” then all we do is to make God known in the most authentic of ways

  • Be with Jesus where Jesus is

    • Odd request if we consider Jesus is on the precipice of arrest, torture and death

    • To be with Jesus in a Spiritual sense- confident trust in God (this is not a “let this cup pass from me” Jesus - see John 12:27-28)

    • “Our opportunity this week, I think, is to let them know that whatever they may face, they do not face it alone, because Jesus was praying for them back then and promises to accompany them through the Holy Spirit even now, all these years later. Tell them that this week, Dear Partner. That on the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus prayed for them. That Jesus continues to walk with them. That Jesus will accompany them through all that may come, holding onto them through the highs and lows of this life, even through death to new life. This is the promise of resurrection, one we so desperately need to hear.” (David Lose, In the Meantime…)

  • They’ll know we are Christians by our love

    • We know God because we know Jesus

    • People know Jesus because they know us (Christians)

      • You are the presence of Christ! HUGE responsibility

Thoughts and Questions

  • Through the transitive formula (We see God through Christ (v.25), we know Christ through his followers (v.26) therefore we know God through Jesus’ followers)we reveal not only Christ but through Christ- God to the world.

    • What kind of God are you or your church revealing to the world?

    • How are you revealing, pointing to  or exposing the work of God in your community and beyond?

  • Who are you not willing to “be one” with?

Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21

Initial Thoughts

  • Lectionary takes out the scalpel this week. Takes out all the icky parts.

    • “The lectionary omits v 15 and 18-19, presumably because of their harsh statements concerning the judgment that will constitute Jesus’ repayment for the works of some. Understandably, the preacher needs to approach these verses with particular care, so that the sermon does not serve only to engender fear or worsen guilt. Deleting these verses, however, deletes a crucial piece of the apocalyptists’ worldview, namely dualism” (Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching, Year C, p. 336)

    • Irony in the fact that the lectionary takes out the words that say “if anyone takes away from the words of this scroll of prophecy, God will take away that person’s share in the tree of life and the holy city, which are described in this scroll” (Rev. 22:19)

      • Words must be kept - and acted upon.

Bible Study

  • Dualism of Revelation - and all apocalyptic literature

    • There are two sides - good and bad.

    • There is Babylon and there is New Jerusalem. You cannot live in both.

    • There is the Lamb and the Beast. You cannot serve both.

    • There is going to be one winner.

      • For the winners: Perseverance, patience, hope, and joy.

      • For the losers: They are outside. Isolated from the love and worship of God.

    • Still though, the next verse is invitation. Those on the inside say “Come!” TO those who are thirsty, “Come.”

    • Even after the word of judgment has been spoken, there is still invitation.

  • Jesus will soon return - Immanence of the Parousia.

    • Revelation is not a book written to inspire fear or terror. But it is definitely written to increase a sense of urgency for our world. It is an apocalyptic wake-up call for each of us, precisely because there is hope for us and the world.” (Rossing, The Rapture Exposed, p. 170)

    • Revelation is a book that demands action and decision.

    • People must decide if they are going to follow the Lamb, or if they are going to follow the Beast, but hope is always extended.

    • In time of persecution, it gives people hope that if they hold on, things will get better. (Cue Wilson Phillips)

    • Live as if God is coming soon.

      • Soon and Near are relative terms that are difficult to define. Yet the message of Revelation is that Christ is coming soon, and in the meantime God is near. Nearness and Soon-ness are the defining traits of God, even when it does not appear to be the case.

  • 12-14 Favored are the ones who wash their robes

    • Connection to Didache and early worship practices

    • In Baptism, new followers “put on Christ,” by literally putting on a new robe.

  • 16-17 These words are from Jesus, whose descendant is David

    • Polemic against anti-Jewish backlash, and Jewish anti-Christian sentiment.

    • Establishes the deep connection of Jesus to God. This is not something new, but is rooted in Jewish people.

  • 20-21 Bear witness that Jesus is coming soon

    • To declare that Jesus is coming soon is to live as if he is coming soon.

    • To ask Jesus to come is to do as he commanded

      • To worship only God

      • To love your neighbor

      • To stand strong in face of persecution

Thoughts and Questions

  • “What is the message for Revelation for our world? Revelation is not about an inevitable doomsday for the earth nor about the Rapture. Revelation’s story is about seeing the Lamb beside you in every moment of your life - in the car, at the shopping mall, at work or school. Revelation is about looking more deeply into God’s picture and seeing how the Lamb is leading you even now into a world of joy and healing.” (Close of Barbara Rossing’s The Rapture Exposed, p. 171).

  • The Second Coming of Jesus is a topic often left unexplored. Since ‘we’ don’t talk about it much, ‘they’ have a field day with it. This is a chance to really explore what you think about what it means to say “until you come again in final victory.” Are we looking for Christ in a person, or Christ in the Kingdom of God fulfilled?

Acts 16:16-34

Initial Thoughts

  • Last Sunday of Eastertide - Pentecost is coming

  • Matt Skinner has a great Sermon on this at Festival of Homiletics 2019, “Don’t Give Me that Old Time Civil Religion”

Bible Study

  • Philippi

    • In Macedonia which is north of Greece

    • Where Augustus (Octavian) Caesar settled his soldiers after establishing the “Pax Romana” (defeating Cassius, Brutus, Marc Anthony and Cleopatra)

    • A Roman town - established a “min-Rome” under the jurisdiction of the municipal laws of Rome

    • Governed by 2 military officers appointed by Rome

    • Drew a lot of wealth from gold mines in the area

    • New Testament period - by the time Paul arrives in Philippi, it is a thoroughly Roman town. The language was Latin, Augustus was seen as the Prince of Peace and Son of God. All of the power and wealth was directly connection to Rome and the Roman military - they “owed” their status to Rome and Augustus.

  • Slave-girl

    • Possessed by a “Pythian Spirit”, the spirit of divination

    • Apollo was the God of divination (and was beloved by Augustus who used to dress up like Apollo for parties - according to Matt Skinner)

    • She speaks the truth from the spirit of Apollo, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.”

    • To dispute her truth is to deny the power of Apollo and to negate her Pythian Spirit - yet her proclamation undermines Apollo’s authority by claiming Paul’s God as Most High

  • Paul casts out the spirit easily - showing the power of Yahweh over Apollo

    • Matt Skinner claims Paul’s apostolic power not just over Apollo, but over the Civil religion of Philippi

    • To cast out the Pythian spirit is to cast out the idolatrous worship of nationalism, militarism, and economic exploitation

  • Philippian response

    • Xenophobia and anti-semitic - the Jews are disrupting the city and not obeying our laws

      • A common anti-semitic trope, then and still today (today we see this especially used against Muslims and other minorities)

    • They take Paul and Silas to the magistrates using nationalistic, protectionist, xenophobic and commercial arguments against them

    • Irony- they are all themselves or descendants of foreigners (Romans)

    • The crowd joins in the nationalistic, anti-semitic fervor and strip and beat Paul and Silas.

  • In Prison

    • Paul and Silas do not waste away but worship God in the midst of their midnight hour - when all hope seems lost they turn to God

    • When the jailer comes and assumes they are gone he also loses hope and is about to take his life when Paul and Silas share the good news - they are there, hope is found

      • The Jailer rested his hope in the authorities of Philippi and Rome which measured his worth by how well he imprisoned others

      • The Jailer is now invited to rest his hope in God who claims the jailer as a beloved child, unconditionally

  • Jailer and Lydia

    • Both are converted and their belief leads to radical hospitality

    • Salvation leads to actions of welcome, care, relationship and love

  • The Magistrate

    • Whoops- they realize their grievous error, these foreign, Jewish disturbers of the peace are actually Roman citizens!

    • Not the Magistrate’s bacon is on the line because he can be tried and convicted for abusing a Roman citizen

    • He want to make it go away, but Paul wants to humiliate the Magistrate

      • Why?

      • Is it speaking truth to power or is Paul caught up in his own self-righteousness.

      • If this were truly the work of God, then why doesn’t Paul use his position of power to truly liberate the slave-girl and bring her to Lydia’s house?

      • Matt Skinner, “A passion for justice can quickly and easily become a passion for dominance and humiliation of enemies.”

  • Return to Lydia’s house

    • A place of hospitality where the lowly (women in this case, widows in the case of Tabitha) are lifted into places of power and authority

    • Where hospitality and justice triumph over domination, fear, and nationalism; where Jesus NOT Caesar/Rome are proclaimed as Lord.

Thoughts and Questions

  • What about the slave girl? Many people focus on how the slave-girl’s owners don’t care for her at all, they only care about her Pythian Spirit and its ability to make them money. This may be (and probably is) true, but Paul isn’t any better.

    • He is more focused on confronting the magistrates and humiliating them than he is about the slave-girl

    • He is annoyed with the slave girl, which leads him to cast out the spirit, he does it to help himself, not to liberate her

    • There is no reflection what the girl will do now that she can’t tell the future, she remains a slave and if her owners can’t make money from her telling fortunes what will they use her for now?

  • Matt Skinner, “What would the Pythian Spirit say if it were to follow you around?”

  • We must answer the Jailer’s question, “What must I do to be saved?” and we must also be willing to stay with others in their struggle, by proclaiming, “Don’t harm yourself, we are here”, we are with you.

Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Miserlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Bryan Odeen for our closing music.