Vineyards of En-Gedi | 2019 September
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Homiletics Notes / 30.09.2019

Complementing the Gospel, the prophet Habakkuk cries out to God in the midst of all the destruction around him. He prophesied around the year 612 BC, a period of turmoil in the Ancient Near East between the collapse of the northern kingdom of Israel and the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Hence his cry for God's action in history. God gives him a vision of restoration and fulfillment of the land to the people. Habakkuk's concerns are the great questions of how God acts in history and questions of justice. He rails against the rich who abuse the poor. In Habakkuk, wealth leads directly to the shedding of human blood. (d 2, 8. 17. Jesus comes in this same prophetic tradition in the gospel: "you cannot serve God and mammon." ...

Homiletics Notes / 30.09.2019

Here beginning to reflect on next Sundays readings, Ordinary Time 27 C. We come to the end of the great supper that began in Luke 14. These are the last verses, before Luke 17, 11 where Jesus returns to the road to Jerusalem; he will arrive in Chapter 19. These last verse set at the supper of the Pharisee, The disciples request the gift of faith; Jesus offers them a saying about an uprooted mulberry tree planted in the sea. Then he has a final parable about masters and servants, stewardship and discipleship. He applies the parable to them in the summary statement in vs. 10. "When you have done all you have been commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'" Service to the gospel, best done without expectation of reward, is faithful stewardship and truly done out of love. At the dinner most of the material in some sense deals with the Pharisee in front of all the guests. It challenges them, their view of religious practice, their politics, and their values structure. In some sense the followers of Jesus are mostly listening to the teaching; it may have set up a tension between and among the groups at the supper. The followers of Jesus clearly would have identified with the lost lamb, coin, and son, the clever servant, the poor man Lazarus. Yet, now at the end of the supper, Jesus turns his attention to them when they request an increase of faith. He reminds them of the challenge they also face in the reign of God. In other words he is not easy on us, for we are just the servants he describes at the end of his sayings. ...

Homiletics Notes / 27.09.2019

There are so many details in the Gospel parable of Dives and Lazarus that it is a challenge to pick them all up. Many of the details are implicit. Remember the setting: at the same supper when Jesus told of the lost lamb, coin, and sons. He is addressing the Pharisees and the scribes. It is curious that we don't know the rich man's name, when we are given the name of Lazarus. Traditional he is named Dives, but that is merely Latin for "rich man." He is dressed like the emperor, in purple. On earth, neither men seem to know one another; actually we the listeners in some way better know them, as Jesus tells the story. The story ends abruptly, inviting our consideration of Abraham's final comeback in the dialogue. The narrative that occurs on earth has no conversation, while the one between heaven and Hades has the dialogue. It is the Greek Hades, and not the Hebrew word Sheol, that Luke uses, which suggests his Hellenistic audience. Curiously "Hades" probably derives from and means "the Unseen One," in Greek which makes sense in light of the Greek understanding of afterlife. Yet, in a sense, the netherworld is not only unseeable from our side, but also from their side to us or heavenly realms, in other words they are blind when in Hades, as we are when we sin, as Dives was in his failure to see Lazarus. ON the way to Jerusalem Jesus will cure a blind man who calls out to him, much like Dives to Abraham. Finally note the build up in the four rounds of the dialogue leading up to the resurrection. teaching which will be fulfilled in Jerusalem. ...

Homiletics Notes / 26.09.2019

The Psalm 146 gives us a variant form the corporal works of mercy, which exactly fits and emphasizes the theme of the Gospel in the arrangement of the lectionary, in light of which it might be a good idea to review them with personal stories or how the whole parish, or whatever congregation is practicing them. Timothyis charged by Paul to "keep the commandment". It seems odd to use the definite singular, and so makes it unlikely to refer to all the Ten Commandments or any one in particular. More likely it probably refers to Timothy's commission (Ordination) when he was made bishop. The command is to live a devout life and also to bear witness to the Gospel at all costs. The witness (evangelization) is before the whole world, hence the mention of Christ before Pilate. The command given in the ordination prayer is similar today and uses the language of I Timothy. In this way the minister gives honor to Jesus, "the only king." The command leads then to the corporal works of mercy as the work of the ministers of the church. In other words, evangelization is most effective because people can see the breath and scope of the charity and believe. ...

Homiletics Notes / 25.09.2019

With last Sunday's reading from the prophet Amos, we get a scathing critique of our own economy. Everyone is happy that the economy is growing, fears of a looming recession notwithstanding. Remember, "It's the economy, stupid." In our eviscerate culture today, ethics, environment, and empathy count for nothing anymore; it's the money that matters. In this culture, people do not matter, only the money. Let's just tease out the key words from Amos. Complacent, comfortable, improvising, and "yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph." Frank Sinatra's "I Did It My Way" is right at home here. Dives, too. One has to admire the next generation, like the Swedish 15 year old, Greta Thunberg, who addressed the United Nations. Like the Pharisees at the supper when Jesus told this parable of Lazarus the poor man who "sneered at him" (Luke 16, 14), certain world leaders did the same. Like Amos she was totally in their face. Even the Church today feels very uncomfortable with the prophets, for example, not the Napa 'faith first', concerned with doctrinal purity above everything else amidst a very wealthy crowd. ...

Homiletics Notes / 24.09.2019

Typical of Luke, the details in the story are very carefully selected and pointed. First notice the theme of reversal. The reign of God turns everything upside down. The verses just before the story tell that the Pharisees at the table sneer at Jesus after hearing the first four parables of the scattered and the found. The picture created by inserting the dogs only emphasizes the disastrous state of the poor man. However he dies and goes to heaven, while the rich man dies and is buried in the earth. From below the earth, where Hades was imagined to be, he cries out for mercy. Not the Hebrew word for afterlife is here, Sheol, but the Greek conception in Hades, Dives first speech is full of ego centric language; he still doesn't get it. Abraham's retort is both a teaching and a reprimand. Heaven is a comfort after earthly discomfort. The chasm between heaven and the netherworld is unbridgeable, and it is implied that it is eternal. The second round of the dialogue sets up a teaching about the resurrection, which the Pharisees would have accepted; the teaching is an invitation to come back into the divine story. Abraham offers him Moses and the prophets, which supports the view that Jesus was himself deeply rooted in Jewish tradition. The final round of the dialogue has an outrageous request from Divesa: send someone from the dead back to earth. Abraham's response is also pithing to the response of people to the resurrection, a new teaching in the ancient world and very hard to accept. What happens next is ten more verses of sayings of Jesus about the rigors fo discipleship, and the great supper comes to an end. What a dinner! ...

Homiletics Notes / 23.09.2019

WE are writing forward to Ordinary Time 26 C, and we have the parable of Dives and Lazarus. "Purple garments and fine linens" suggests the imperial family, if not the emperor himself, because only they wore purple. Jesus is connecting the pharisees with the Romans. Sumptuous dining every day suggests an outrageous display of wealth. In contrast to the purple linen garments of the rich man, Lazarus wears a garment of sores. The licking dogs suggests his ritual impurity and proximity to death. The deaths of the two are identical but not where they find themselves afterwards. The netherworld is not quite the later understanding of Hell in Christian cosmology. It is the dialogue between the rich man and Abraham that is interesting, after the details of the setting are noted. Lazarus never says a word in all the parable, that appears only in Luke. The question is this; what is the consolation you wish: one here in the world or one in the world to come? It is also a parable about acceptance and rejection, about death and resurrection. ...

Homiletics Notes / 20.09.2019

The parable of the unreliable servant and the master's forgiveness follows and is related to the three parables of the lost as Luke arranges these teachings at the supper of the Pharisee. The themes of squandering wealth, return, prudence, forgiveness, the role of wealth (inheritance), trustworthiness that began in the lost parables continue here in this parable and in the teaching verses that follow. So, the shepherd, the woman, the father, and the servant are praised for their stewardship of what is enduring and truly valuable, which of course is faith. What is true wealth? We forget this in our times because of the overwhelming presence of the material world, especially the part which we made, for example, technology, and the like. These are not things that make us wealthy. As Jesus teaches about discipleship, his culminating in these sayings. It is noteworthy that in the very next passage, Luke 16, 16-17, the Pharisees who heard all these things, "sneer" at Jesus. They reject him, and exactly for the reasons his final retort gives to them. Do we value human or divine esteem? These two verses ought to be read, as they round out the whole of Luke 15 - 16, and bring the incident back to where it started, "he addressed the Pharisees". ...

Homiletics Notes / 19.09.2019

The prophet Amos invokes a judgment scene; God will remember all that the rich have doe to abuse the poor. Amos lists the offenses. Trampling and destroying the needy and the poor, in other words running roughshod over them. The rich violate the Sabbath in order to make more money and not miss a single opportunity for profit. The next verse regards adjusting the scales of measure to cheat people, and without telling them. Next he condemns that practice of slavery, still around today and in our own country; slavery steals human dignity from the person. Then, just as today, even the gargbage will be sold for profit; although the verse refers back to the Mosaic law of allowing some grain to remain standing in the field so that the poor can have food that they harvest on their own. Here, the "refuse of the wheat" will be sold instead, denying the poor their food. These are not just some ancient sins, but very much thriving today in our capitalistic economic culture, where everyone has a number based on credit availability. The economics of the reign of God is not capitalism. This may sound like a heresy to most Americans. Amos worked during the reign of Jeroboam II in the 8th century, a time of economic prosperity for Israel. He boldly proclaims his visions to the nations and to their kings. God is not some local national God of Israel, but the Lord of the nations, and the nations will be judged for their oppressions, largely economic and religious. He rails against what is happening in the "sanctuaries" dedicated to the fertility deities of the ancient near East. ...

Homiletics Notes / 18.09.2019

We live in such times that challenge some that we should pray for "kings and those in authority", translate: "politicians" today. To use Paul's language we might ask if our prayers for them have actually resulted in "a quiet and tranquil live in all devotion and dignity." Everywhere we sense the disquiet of our times; human rights and dignity are eroded in our own country and in too many place throughout the world. Surely it is not that our prayers are inadequate. Paul then makes a leap in the text and connects this sort of life with the salvation. In other words, when we have the peaceful life, then we can focus on salvation. At the same time, this sort of life is a glimpse then of the life of the world to come. The universalism really stands out in Paul. He proposes that underlying all this is the one God (remember he is living in a polytheistic world, much like our own), and this one God's will is the salvatkon of all. God is our true king who alone brings us quiet, tranquility, and human dignity. The barriers of race and cult are banished, and the work of salvation has an enormous breath and scope. He tells us that this is the core witness of his mission. He is speaking the truth. The passage ends with Paul returning to his theme of prayer. Note that hands of prayer in his culture were uplifted hands, unlike the folded hands of today. Folded hands in prayers is a very much later custom in Western Europe. Note, too, that effective prayer is engaged without anger or argument. Paul is always aware of the factions in the early Christian communities. A unified parish is surely every pastor's dream. ...