Proper 14C (OT19)
336: August 11, 2019
179: August 7, 2016
Voice in the Wilderness: Jeff Nelson
Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan
Uh-oh, talking about money again.
“The challenge, of course is how to preach these verses as more than memorable words worthy of plaques to hang in our kitchens or offices.” (Karoline Lewis, Working Preacher)
What Bible verses do we make into memes?
I’m guessing not “Sell your possessions and give the money to the poor.”
“I will begin the discussion of ‘Biblical literalism and inerrancy,’ if, and only if, you sell your possessions and give the money to the poor. Do that, then come back to me and we can talk about ‘taking the Bible literally.’” (paraphrased quote from Michael Kinnamon at Eden Seminary, circa 2003)
Our conversation with Mike Slaughter, author of The Christian Wallet.
Second half of a larger discourse about possessions beginning in 12:13
Parable of the Rich Fool from last week
v. 22-31 skipped by lectionary.
Placed in Sermon on the Mount in Matthew
v. 22-31 - Do not worry - ending with “Strive for the Kingdom and these things will be given to you as well”
v. 32-34 are the conclusion of the previous passage
Starts with Father delights in giving you the Kingdom - Lens
Addressing the anxiety concerning possessions that Jesus addresses in 21-31, “Do not worry”
Also connects with the Lord’s Prayer from chapter 11 - “Give us today our daily bread”
”Fear Not,” is a common opening in the Scriptures, “Typically, "Do not be afraid," is the rhetorical prelude to the announcement of God's mighty and saving deeds. And it is the starting point and anchor for everything else in this passage. It is God's good pleasure - God's intention, plan, and delight - to give you the kingdom! If this is true, then disciples can, indeed, resist the seduction of wealth, not fall prey to constant anxiety about worldly needs, share what they have with others, and wait expectantly, even eagerly, for the coming of the Son of Man.” (David Lose, Working Preacher)
The invitation from scarcity (“There is not enough”) to Abundance (“There is more than enough”) is one of the most challenging for modern Christians
We are constantly told that what we have is not enough
We rack up massive debt, accept it as normal, and use it to justify not giving to our neighbors
We build barns to store up for the future and spend out time and energy agonizing over whether we have enough
Budgets become a zero-sum game of win and lose instead of a toll for the Kingdom of God
32-34 - Proper place of money, part of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew
Matthew 6:19-21 Stop collecting earthly treasures for your own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them. Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them. Where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.
Why does Matthew place these warnings about possessions and worry in the Sermon on the Mount, but Luke places them as a part of the travel story at the start of warnings, conflict, and controversy?
35-40 - Metaphors about watchfulness
Strange division - v. 32-34 are better connected to the previous passage on possessions and anxiety and these verses (35-40) are better connected to the following parable on faithfulness.
Keep your lamps trimmed and burning - see Matthew 25:1-13 which leads into the passage about feeding the hungry and welcoming the stranger
Like people waiting for their master to return.
Master finds them waiting = Happy. Master will become the slave.
If the homeowner knew when the thief was coming, the house wouldn’t have been broken into.
Is the coming of Jesus like a thief breaking into a house?
“The Son of Man will come, and will come unexpectedly. Not only will it be a surprise as to time but it will be disruptive, as would be the coming of a night thief… But readiness is possible, for it consists of continuing faithfulness at one’s duties. When that is the case uncertainties are no cause for alarm or anxiety (Fred Craddock, Interpretation: Luke, p. 165)
Lectionary cuts off 41-48, the unhappy master. The master of servants who beat other servants, get drunk, and are not watchful because they assume the master isn’t coming.
This is us - the unfaithful servant
Do we spend our time, energy and money as if we are in the presence of God?
How would you act in the presence of God? How would you budget? What possessions would you be proud to have? How would it feel to be audited by God?
Picks up next week with conflicts brought by Jesus.
Thoughts and Questions
Karoline Lewis proposes a progression: Fear, Treasure, Prepare. This is a formula for the Christian life.
Beginning of faith is “Fear Not.” No need to fear, because Kingdom is one of plenty, kindness, and grace.
Treasure shifts when we no longer fear. When we fear, we treasure things that seem to bring security. If we no longer fear, we can treasure different things - more permanent things.
Prepare is not simply sitting and waiting. “Being ready for Jesus’ second coming is less about any actual time and place and more about imagining Jesus’ activity in the world, when and where you least expect it or imagine seeing it. In other words, waiting around, waiting for instructions, is not going to cut it. Fear, treasure, and being prepared is the pattern for discipleship. Being without fear, knowing the source of your treasure - that is, your identity, your worth - makes it possible to be prepared for and an actual participant in God’s Kingdom.
Verse 41: “Peter said, "Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?"
Do we really have to sell our possessions and give them to the poor?
Do we really have to wait up all night in fear?
“The point of almsgiving, I think, is not to elevate poverty - circumstantial or chosen - but rather to extol generosity as a mark of the Christian life. Similarly, the watchfulness Jesus commands is not an anxious anticipation of the end of the world but rather an eager expectation of God's consummation of history. What Jesus is commending is faith - faith that frees one to be generous; faith that enables one to leave anxiety behind; faith that creates in one confidence about a future secured not by hum
On to Isaiah!
Typically in 3 parts:
1-39 - pre-Exile
40-55 - Exile
56-66 - post-Exile
Longest prophetic book
Focus in on Judah (the Southern Kingdom) not Israel, the Northern Kingdom
Isaiah the man
8th century prophet in Judah (Southern Kingdom)
Most likely did not write the entire book of Isaiah, but wrote Isaiah 1-39
Name means “YHWH has saved” or “YHWH may save”
Assyria was expanding (from what is now Northern Iraq) to dominate Aram (Syria) in 732 BCE, Israel (Northern Kingdom) in 722 BCE and then laid siege to Judah in 701 BCE.
Judah is conquered in 586 BCE by the Babylonians leading to the exile which ended in 515 BCE when Cyrus the Persian liberated the Jews from Babylon
Sovereignty of God over all nations and all the Earth (not a tribal or regional deity)
Sodom and Gomorrah
Sets the stage as those deserving the wrath of God
Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed for homosexuality, but for their evil, sinfulness, lack of anyone righteous and injustice (Gen 13:13; 18:20; 19:13; cf. Ezekiel 16:49)
Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for their injustice- so too will Judah be destroyed for its injustice
Religious Authorities has become complicit in the injustice
Rejection of empty ritual
Systematic rejection of every aspect of worship: sacrifice, gathering, offering, incense, public assembly, prayers, supplication, etc.
What is required?
Stop doing evil
Learn to do good
Rescue the oppressed
Defend the powerless (orphan)
Give voice to the voiceless (widow)
Judgment and Grace
Sodom and Gomorrah - judgment is coming to you!
Grace - let us argue it out together
Offer of redemption and choice- choose abundant life in God’s ways or death.
Thoughts and Questions
We often think of repentance (changing heart and mind toward God) as an individual act. How might we embody this as a church act?
Do our rituals match our calling? If so- how do they and if not, do we need to explore new rituals?
What does it mean to argue to out with God? What does it mean to worship a God who in the moment of judgment is willing to hear us out and invite us into transformation? Condemnation never separates us as beloved children.
Chapters 1-10 are covered in Year B
Four weeks in Hebrews
Heb 11:1-3, 8-16
Heb 13:1-8, 15-16
Who wrote it? No one knows
“Hebrews is well known for what we don’t know about it. We don’t know with any certainty its author, date, destination, or the place from which it was written.” (Common English Study Bible, introduction to the book of Hebrews, p. 433 NT)
“We wish we knew who wrote this curious epistle. Even though many names have been suggested - Apollos, Barnabas, Luke, Clement of Rome, Priscilla, and Silvanus, to mention a few - the arguments are not strong for any candidate. We actually have a firmer grasp of who did not write Hebrews than who did, since stylistic grounds alone, it is a virtual certainty that the apostle Paul did not pen this letter. But who did? The best answer to that question is the comment of Origen in the third century: ‘But who wrote the epistle, in truth God knows.’” (Thomas Long, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Preaching and Teaching: Hebrews, page 1)
When was it written? 70-100 CE
Before Clement of Rome (died in 99), who appears to have quoted it.
After some time to develop a Christology and theology.
No direct mention of Temple destruction in 70.
Where was it written? Possibly Rome
In midst of some harassment
“The reference to those from Italy sending greetings (13:24) suggests that Rome may have been the destination of Hebrews, as does its use in the late first-century letter of Clement of Rome.” (Robert Spivey and D. Moody Smith, Anatomy of the New Testament, fifth edition, p. 391)
What is it? A sermon
“First, when we read through Hebrews and compare it to other literature of its day, it becomes clear that what we call the Letter to the Hebrews is not, in fact, a letter at all… The main body of Hebrews bears all the marks of an early Christian sermon, what the author calls a ‘word of exhortation,’... Hebrews appears to be an example of a sermon that is rabbinical in its design, Christian in content, and heroic in length.” (Thomas Long)
The argument 3:1-10:18
Jesus is Son (3:1-4:13)
Jesus is High Priest (4:14-10:18)
The implications 10:19-12:29 - the next three texts in lectionary fall here.
Conclusion 13:1-25 - September 1
“The preacher is addressing a real and urgent pastoral problem, one that seems astonishingly contemporary. His congregation is exhausted. They are tired - tired of serving the world, tired of worship, tired of Christian education, tired of being peculiar and whispered about in society, tired of the spiritual struggle, tired of trying to keep their prayer life going, tired even of Jesus… Tired of walking the walk, many of them are considering taking a walk, leaving the community and falling away from the faith.” (Thomas Long)
Faith (v. 1-3)
Draw back to 10:32, recalling the endurance from earlier days.
Not talking about “The Good Old Days,” but instead, talking about the struggle over which they have already come. Lifting up the power of endurance.
Points to the faith of the early days of this community.
Faith is linked to endurance.
11:1 “Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see.”
This is a shift in translation that the CEB makes. One that Harold Aldridge made in 1989 (Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching, Year C, p. 465)
“By striking contrast with the customary understanding of this verse, in which it asserts the obvious truth that faith involves confidence about things that cannot be presently verified, what Hebrews actually asserts is that in faith the believer already anticipates the final outcome (the reality) of what is believed. That is not to say that believing makes something true or that whatever one actually believes will happen, but that faith itself has a kind of eschatological power.”
“What emerges then, from v. 1, then, is not a platitude about belief but a highly provocative claim that faith itself moves in the direction of the realization of those things that are presently beyond demonstration”
Note from Common English Study Bible: “It’s what we have now instead of what we believe will eventually come to pass. This is not a definition of faith but a description of how it functions.”
11:3, Creation ex nihilo is not a debate about the scientific process of creation, but an acknowledgment that God is involved. Even the best scientific theories today - although they do not NEED God to exist, allow room for God. This is faith.
What is skipped? (v. 4-7)
Two obscure or difficult examples - Abel and Enoch.
Abel not a great example because he was murdered
Enoch not a great example because the preacher would have to spend a lot of time explaining a story of which few are familiar.
v. 8-12 Historic exemplars of faith from the Torah
Noah - Built an ark despite no signs of a storm.
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - Went to a place he had never seen. Lived in tents until he found a “city… whose architect and builder is God.”
Sarah - Believed she would bear children, and did.
This one is a little problematic. Interesting reading of the story (she did after all, laugh). The literal translation also makes it look like Sarah’s power led to conception. Also problematic for those struggling with infertility.
v. 13-16 The Lesson - God is faithful to those who are faithful
“All these died in faith without receiving the promises, but they saw the promises from a distance and welcomed them.”
They were searching for a new city of God.
They set everything aside to become vulnerable, weak, strangers because they had faith God would guide them.
The rest of the chapter includes even more examples - and it definitely sounds like a rousing sermon. Next week we will pick up in the middle of it.
Quick flashforward - 11:36 brings it back to 10:32-33
They all experienced public shame, and so have you.
Thoughts and Questions
The immediate political context of verses 13-16 is remarkable. The idea of God embracing immigrants and strangers who are looking for a new home because of their faith is, to say the least, timely.
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.