Vineyards of En-Gedi | 2019 November
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Homiletics Notes / 29.11.2019

The prophet Isaiah's vision of the great ingathering on the holy mountain presents God as the ultimate judge. The terms of the judgment are to turn the weapons of war into the production of food. There will be no more hungry poor. The first to be called up is the house of Jacob, in other words, all the chosen people are called to turn from their economics of war industry to peace making. Our own post-industrial society and economics depends on the manufacture of war that maintains a constant tension among the peoples. The theory goes something like this: you need weaponry to protect yourself against the others because they are different and one never knows what they are up to, but that they are aggressive and wish to expand. We are still living a misinformed Malthusian theory that there's not enough to go around, therefore, we have to protect what we have and take even more from others to ensure that we really have enough so that we hold to the illusion that we are number one, completely disregarding the gospel saying of Jesus that the first shall be last. If we shared in an economics of egalitarian distribution then there would be no need for the economics of war. But we believe in capitalism's values and economics. To say nothing of the fact that we ultimately reject God's providential care. Christmas is about our bounty, and not hardly about God's bounty that he should send His Son. ...

Homiletics Notes / 28.11.2019

Mountains evoked for many ancient cultures a spiritual home for their divinities. Just as deceased human were thought to be in some dark and dank underworld, so in sharp contrast, the gods dwelled on mountain peaks. In classical cosmologies this meant closer to the sun, therefore warmer, and filled with light. Mountain climbing as experienced today was unheard of until modern times. People did not climb mountains, which were viewed as obstacles In the way. They knew the journey up was rigorous and filled with many dangers, including strange encounters with strange creatures, uneven terrain, and weather out of control. At the end of a mountain pilgrimage, often a person will have an experience of "vastation", a original concept of William James, and picked up by Tolkien. That sense of overseeing the whole, and then being one with the whole, is a prerequisite to human health. It certainly evokes humility, the mother of all the virtues. Babylonian zirgurrats, Egyptian pyramids, and Greek Mt. Olympus were homes to the divinities while they were here on earth. These places were pilgrimage destinations to visit the gods. When speaking of mountains, the word "ascent" appears, and very little literary evidence of the descent. The Lord's mountain is Zion in Jerusalem capped by the ancient temple complex. Yet Isaiah's mountain references both the real geography of Jerusalem and the mystical mountain in the prophetic imagination. ...

Homiletics Notes / 25.11.2019

This coming Sunday begins the lectionary cycle A, the Gospel of Matthew with the first Sunday of Advent. The first Sunday is apocalyptic, the next two focus on John and Baptist, and finally the last Sunday is about Joseph and Mary. We are so busy with our lives, mostly our work lives, that we do not live in the present moment of ourselves in relationship, so much as we focus on external things that at the end of the day do not matter and do not prepare us for the coming of the messiah at the end of days. Often it seems that our busy-ness is an excuse for the development of the interior life which we do not want to face, because it is our inmost self, wherein we are only too painfully aware of ourselves as we are. Jesus reminds us of Noah so that we do not fall into the same trap of being asleep to the interior life and unprepared. All the apocalyptic teachings of Matthew 24 and 25 culminate in the judgment of the nations, the parable of the sheep and the goats. Our busy-ness is usually about what is to our advantage, while the attention to the interior life is not about ourselves but rather about the other, and ultimately about Christ. The first reading from Isaiah speaks of all the "others" gathering on Mount Zion, Jerusalem, to be instructed in the ways of the Lord. The central teaching is about the peacemaking mission of the word of the Lord to ingather al the nations. The mountain of the Lord, a place of judgment and peace recalls images of the garden of Eden. The Psalm initiate the Psalms of Ascent, pilgrimages stages on the way to the holy city and the temple. Romans 13 urges us to live in the light of the Day, to be prepared by lively rightly, and by putting on the Lord Jesus. The night is far advanced, Paul's image of...

Homiletics Notes / 22.11.2019

The Colossians is a thanksgiving hymn to the Father, who delivers us into the kingdom of His Son. Then the hymn itself gives adoration to the Sonby naming his qualifications and characteristics making him worthy of this adoration. Christological means that it is a hymn about Christ in his full nature and substance. Because he holds these states of being, he is qualified and authorized "to reconcile all things for him." This reconciliation is effected "making peace by the blood of his cross." I imagine that the cross is the new tree of knowledge and its fruit is not the pomegranate juice of the tree in Eden, but rather his own blood, which we consume in communion of the Eucharist. The language of "blood of his cross" not only suggests his physical body, but implies a poetic image of the cross tree itself bleeding. This is a complex image for the modern person to wrap their imagination around. The question is: how can blood be life giving to say nothing of making and restoring peace? ...

Homiletics Notes / 21.11.2019

The king sneered at, jeered, called out, and reviled. That's the list of strong verbs for the rulers, the soldiers, and the criminals crucified with him. In Luke's structure they represent the four confrontations in the passion narrative: in the courtyard, before Pilate, before Herod, and before the leaders of the people. Each of these groups has a vision of kingship that falls short of the vision of the reign of God or at the least has disastrous consequences for justice, peace, and human dignity. Again, it's the royal versus the prophetic consciousness. The irony is that the accusation hung above Jesus on the cross is meant to mock him from the Roman perspective, yet it actually mocks their own limited sense of kingship. The other recurring refrain in the gospel is their notion of salvation. The rulers taunt him with this, the soldiers, and the criminals. But they have little or no idea of what an authentic salvation would look like, because they are only thinking of salvation as escape from their present predicament. We, too, often do likewise. Salvation is not a "from something" but rather "for something." That is to say, for the reign of God. This is the salvation of discipleship. One is not just saved from blindness or lameness, but one is for the accompaniment with Christ and with no other. He is acknowledged as king, Lord of our lives for the purpose of turning from the works of slavery (sin) towards the works of the reign of God (charity), the corporal works of mercy. ...

Homiletics Notes / 19.11.2019

The readings present three different images for celebrating Christ the King. In the gospel, the Messiah reigns from the cross where he distributes justice on the world. In the second reading we have one of the four great Christological hymns, in sharp contrast to the image of the king on the cross; the hymns employs dense philosophical vocabulary to reflect on the nature of the Christ. In the first reading, the kingship of David is placed within covenant and nuptial language as a fulfillment of the peoples' prayer for a ruler (like the other nations). This is a very interesting combination, and probably difficult to flesh out in an integrated homily. Each image requires its own full attention. This king is unlike any other. There have been a few kings who became saints, Vaclav for the Czechs for example, but still, none like Christ. We pray for a just ruler/president, and we have instead men each with their own flaws. No one is perfect, which does not excuse the bad behavior. We hope for Plato's philosopher king filled with wisdom and order. Many other nations have been stuck with monstrous dictators and tyrants. We all pray that we live in a time of peace and prosperity, and so too, our children. When we consider the disappointments in these earthly rulers, we yearn for the Prince of Peace and the just judge to help us govern our lives and create a human society of dignity and respect for each person. That's probably not going to happen. So we await this new kind of king. Or do we? In our current state of lawlessness, outsized individualism and fierce independence, it is very difficult to imagine people giving their over their lives to any kind of king, in a culture where everyone is a king and "queen for a day." So this day is not only a reflection on and yearning for Christ the king, but also is a great deal about our own discipleship, our servanthood,...

Homiletics Notes / 18.11.2019

Solemnity of Christ the King. My lens for this is Walter Brueggemann's The Prophetic Imagination, in which book he lays out the patterns of difference with the royal imagination. In other words these readings on this solemnity confront us in the middle of the culture wars. American Catholics would rather go along wih the cultural imagination ion which we are awash in sensate pleasures and conformity to an model for life that is contrary to the Gospel, in which Jesus is presented as a prophetic king. He is not what we would desire in some earthly ruler. The texts of I & II Samuel are all about the problematics of a king, which God gives them at their pleading. But even the Davidic kingship has some unique features too it. In the first reading it is more an agreement/covenant between David and the people; the kingship is not just some forced imposition on the people. Second, and this is more important, the language of "your bone and your flesh" is reminiscent of the Adam and Eve creation narrative, and therefore has a distinct nuptial note to it. This theme will be fully manifest at the end of the book of Revelations in which the king marries the bride, who is the Church. The new kingship is not so much at all about military commanding, but about covenant and shepherding. ...

Homiletics Notes / 15.11.2019

Luke's gospel emphasizes detachment from material things (for the kingdom is not found in these things nor is God's presence or being, as in idols) which is more Luke's way of thinking about the end of things and/or the return of Christ, not necessarily the same things. For Luke's community, the old order certainly was passing away with the Roman sacking of Jerusalem, and just as things pass away, new things (the reign of God in the Christian assembly) come into existence. Luke's original community were surely familiar with the violence of Roman conquest. The Romans were successful because they were brutal, unsparing. So the passage is not so much as in other Gospel apocalyptic narratives about the end of the world, but rather about things the christian community is already experiencing. Because of their complete otherness, their deep critique of the imperial state, and their vision of the reign of God, and adding to this the resurrection, the early communities knew persecution from the beginning. The Church in the North American scene is no longer "other", but has fit in very nicely with the rest of the bourgeoisie. We've lost our ethical ground to critique the capitalistic state because we've bowed to it, and we now think of the reign of God in terms of prosperity religion. Our passage is not the end of Luke's "time of persecution" narrative. It goes on with more graphic details about who will survive and who will not. Luke cautions against dissipation, drunkeness, and distractions, urging the community to remain steadfastly awake to the signs of the times. At the end of all this "time of persecution" talk, Luke notes that the people got up early to come to the 'Temple and hear the teachings of Jesus. ...

Homiletics Notes / 14.11.2019

We are so attached to the things of this world. It is so beautiful. The works of our hands are beautiful. Yet, in light of the reign of God, all these things are nothing, and what little they are, that too will pass away. First Jesus issues a warning neither to follow the false prophets and messiahs, nor to be disturbed bye natural disasters or political upheaval. People of every historical time and place have seen such things. Yet now we sense that something is different about this round of climate change. They changes are not natural, but rather human caused, and therefore potentially human resolved. In any event, Jesus is not condoning some kind of complacency. All this will mean persecution for the Church. The good news is that the persecution will be the best opportunity for testimony and witness -- evangelization! Perseverance in this evangelization secures our fate into eternal life. This giving of testimony to the reality of the reign of God is the work of the Church, first and foremost. The whole Gospel could have been today about the predicament of our own times. It should not be difficult to paint the same picture, but then lead to this work of the church. So that rather than despair or just giving up, the church remains faithful to the truth of the Gospel. ...

Homiletics Notes / 14.11.2019

Order and disorder mark out the poles of the argument in the Catholic Church. Paul does the same for the Thessalonians in the second reading, using himself as the paragon of orderliness. The Greek word chosen here reflects a military backdrop as in the arrangement of troops prepared for battle, the success dependent on sustaining the order. Order leads to victory because no one breaks ranks. For Paul he describes this order as conforming oneself to Paul who boasts that he has been conformed Christ. Secondly it includes making some positive contribution to the community; remember that Paul was a tentmaker. The gossips in the community are the disorderly ones, so minding one's business maintains the orderliness, There's also a hint that the more quiet person is the more orderly person. The community shares its food and work; the two pieces are connected. ...