June 3, 2012, Trinity Sunday
Readings: Psalm 29, Isaiah 6:1-8, Romans 8:12-17, John 3:1-17
This statement first appeared in Presbyterian confessional documents (The Confession of 1967, 9.45) In the pre-9/11 world this statement was foolish; in the post-9/11 world this statement borders on treason. This belief has become the justification for religious activists to avoid connecting the dots between their support of reduction in funding for intelligence agencies and the events of September 11th. This practice has provided the justification for ever-sensitive religious professionals to meet with the thugs of Hezbollah and wink at the chronic oppression of Christians in socialist regimes. (John Adams, “Two Presbyterian staff members who met with Hezbollah are fired,” The Layman Online Friday, November 12, 2004).
Here is one way to conclude this sermon and assist the congregation in assessing its ministry and mission in the community. Ask this question and make this observation to the congregation, amending it as it fits you circumstance: “Do we proclaim Christ clearly or do we give unbelief a wink and a nudge? There is a faithful direction between rabid Fundamentalism and flaccid Liberalism. There are fruitful methods between outdate hymns and rock bands in the sanctuary. In order to use methods contemporary people will recognize I recommend two things: for us to experiment learning some new music this Summer and for the Session undertake a study of The Purpose-Driven Church Life by Rick Warren in light of today’s sermon and today’s needs.”
In reviewing once again The Purpose-Driven Church Life, I am struck by the singularity of these formative questions: “What is our purpose?”, “Why do we do what we do?”, “What should we be doing?”, and “How will you do that?” If we would be successful, changing the practices which no longer meet the basic principles of Christian faith in the 21 st. Century and focusing on building people, Rev. Warren is correct, “If you will concentrate on building people, God will build the church.” (Warren, R. “The Purpose Drive Church Life.”)
June 10, 2012, 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 5
Readings: [Psalm 138 or Psalm 130], [1Samuel 8:4-11 (12-15) 18-20 or Genesis 3:8-15],
2Corinth 4:13-5:1, Mark 3:20-35
No Extra Material
June 17, 2012, 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time,3rd Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 6
Readings: [Ps 20 or Ps 92:1-4, 12-15], [1Sam 15:34-16:13 or Ezekiel 17:22-24], 2Cor 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17, Mark 4:26-34
No Extra Material
June 24, 2012, 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 4th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7
Readings: [Psalm 9:9-20 or Psalm 133 or Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32], [1Samuel 17:1a, 4-11, 19-23),32-49 or 1Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16 or Job 38:1-11], 2Corinthians 6:1-13, Mark 4:35-41
No Extra Material
July 1, 2012, 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 5th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8
Readings: [Psalm 130 or Psalm 30], [2Samuel 1:1, 17-2 or Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24 or Lamentations 3:23-33], 2Corinthians 8:7-15, Mark 5:21-43
Open Door is a ministry in Columbus, Georgia dedicated to the children of Columbus who have no place to go after school and before their parents get off from work. It grew out of the vision of Mrs. Weeta Mathews. When Bishop Arthur Moore dedicated it he said, “A door is a lovely thing. Jesus said, ‘I am the door.’ The door is so wide that all who need the Savior’s care can come in, so narrow that it will shut out all sin. Weeta’s fidelity and vision made this dream come true.” Crowning achievements should be recognized as what we do for others and not some accomplishment achieved for oneself.(William W. Winn, Line of Splendor [Columbus, 2010] p396)
July 8, 2012, 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 6th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9
Readings: [Psalm 48 or Psalm 123], [2Samuel 5:1-5, 9-1or Ezekiel 2:1-5], 2Corinthians 12:2-10, Mark 6:1-13
No Extra Material
July 15, 2012, 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 7th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 10
Readings: [Psalm 24 or Psalm 85:8-13], [2Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 or Amos 7:7-15], Ephesians 1:3-14, Mark 6:14-29
The story is revised greatly in William Dieterle's 1953 film Salome in which the then reigning Hollywood sex goddess Rita Hayworth played Princess Salome. She falls in love with the Roman Commander Claudius (Stewart Granger), who during the course of the story becomes a Christian. In this version Salome dances to save John the Baptist (needless to say the talented Miss Hayworth skillfully performs a very erotic dance). It is Herodias who manipulates Herod to order John's death. The sorrowful Salome joins her lover, and the film ends with their listening to Christ give the Sermon on the Mount.
In The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, Pasolini’s staging is very simple, the mother clothing her teen-aged daughter in a long dress that conceals as much as the scanty veils revealed in the King of Kings. Salome dances using a flowered frond as a prop, the camera showing only the upper portion of her body in medium shots. The king asks what she wants, and she stands beside her mother and asks for the head of John. Again, we are spared the gory details. It is ironic that a Marxist film-maker should opt for a chaste handling of the dance, whereas the supposed Christian Ray chose to film her dance in a very erotic way.
In Jesus of Nazareth, Franco Zeffirelli’s account is probably the longest and most dramatic, beginning with a discussion between the imprisoned Baptist and Herod in which the king almost pleads for the prophet to change and work with him. Herodias listens in on this and then the two of them talk. A little later the scene is the lavish, crowded banquet hall. Even here the sound of John the Baptist quoting from the words of the prophets can be heard, so Herodias orders the musicians to start playing to drown out his proclamations of judgment. Herod asks the reluctant Salome to dance. When she is convinced to do so, there are numerous close ups of the faces of Herod, Salome, and Herodias as she dances. Added to the close-ups of Herod’s features are the torches carried in by servants surrounding Salome, powerful symbols of the passion Herod feels for his daughter-in-law. Herod is visibly shaken when Salome demands the head of her mother’s enemy. When he argues with her, Herodias joins them, declaring that he has given his word. Still protesting because of his conscience and fear, he very reluctantly calls to his guard. The executioner is dispatched, though we (again) do not see the beheading.
July 22, 2012, 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 8th after Pentecost, Proper 11
Readings:[ Psalm 89:20-37 or Psalm 23], [2Samuel 7:1-14a or Jeremiah 23:1-6], Ephesians 2:11-22, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
No Extra Material
Sunday: July 29, 2012, 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time,9th after Pentecost, Proper 12
Readings: [Psalm 14 or Psalm 145:10-18], [2Samuel 11:1-15 or 2Kings 4:42-44], Ephesians 3:14-21, John 6:1-21
The story of the fish and loaves speaks to us about immensity, about abundance: not the kind of abundance that comes from careful gathering and accounting, nor the kind that comes from defrauding one’s neighbors; instead it comes from the abundance of God’s providence. Real unexpected bounty was present. God does not bring about abundance using addition and subtraction instead God does it by multiplying goodness.
Contrasted with the immensity of everything in that scene is the poverty of resources: five barley loaves and two fish to feed thousands of people. This is a very sharp contrast. (http://www.goodnews.ie/multiplicationloavesfish.shtml)
It’s also claimed that Hunza bread is “close to being a balanced meal in itself”. The supposed interviewer of this apparently fake piece of journalism claims:
“I took a bite. The delicious taste of the bread filled my mouth. You could tell that it was hearty, full of substance, chewy, and I could just tell it was good for you. Perhaps our bodies trigger an instinct that lets us know what’s good or bad for us. Producing such wonderful diet bread, would have the world’s obese clamoring for more, was, for some reason, too difficult for scientists or nutritionists But it’s okay! Fear not! The good housewife will sell you the recipe! Just send $20 to a post office box. Cash only, of course. You’ll get what you deserve. Remember is needs to be cash. Nothing that’s traceable. As many of us have been on a diet we so wish all of this was true. (http://thesecondsight.blogspot.com/2007/05/bread-of-eternal-life.html)
This is the human predicament. We labor, labor very hard, and are not satisfied. We spend money on that which is not real bread. The prophet is calling people to come and drink freely of the living water. Jesus told the people, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst’.
What is this bread that Jesus offers? Jesus said, ‘The bread which I give is my flesh, the drink which I give is my blood’. The bread which Jesus gives is himself, his own flesh and blood, his body which was broken on Golgotha for our salvation. ‘Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood’ means those who identify themselves with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. By eating this bread they become participants in His dying and so in His risen life. Jesus went on to say, ‘He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him’. To eat his flesh and drink his blood is to abide in Christ. Jesus said: ‘I am the vine, and you are the branches. He who dwells in me, as I dwell in him, bears much fruit’.
For the fourth evangelist, John, to eat His flesh and drink His blood, is to believe in Jesus, to abide in Him. It is to have an inter-personal relationship with Jesus. Just as the life of the vine gives life to the branches, those who abide in Jesus participate in the life of Christ. (http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=1541)
A blog posted from the Bread of Life Ministry in Poland reads: “Its just past 10:00pm, after all the commuters have returned home. I sat alone with 80 homeless strangers in the Central Train Station of Poznan, Poland. A frigid, smelly, dank train station full of forgotten faces and empty eyes. I see them slouched over in chairs, laying on the windowsills or congregated in the hallways. Their smells permeate the air with a stench so rancid it churns my stomach. To this day I can vividly remember and identify the pungent aroma - urine, alcohol, and body odor. I am simultaneously frightened and exhilarated. A rustling sound is heard by the nearest trash can. A man’s blistered, red and dirty hands are digging through the bin in search of something. I watch intently focused on what he would produce and knowingly eat. He pulls out a McDonald’s cup with a swallow of tepid liquid left. He proceeds to remove the lid and greedily gulp the remainder. Nauseated by the extremes - and the decisions, choices and actions of the people here, I produce a thermos with enough tea for 3. I scrounge in my own pockets and pull out 2 granola bars and a small bag of trail mix. Before I proceed, I sit in the waiting room and pray, “Lord, please make this like the multiplying of the loaves and the fish.” I pray confidently, knowing that with God all things are possible. The Lord gave me enough strength to approach them that night and I was able to minister to three individuals. Nine months later, with the help of my wife and our Polish friends, God has multiplied the tea and snacks. We have since passed out over 10,500 cups of tea and over 6,100 meals at the Poznan Central Train Station during these first 9 months.”
Bread of Life demonstrates Christ to those suffering from poverty, unemployment, homelessness, substance abuse, prostitution, as well as to those who have been orphaned or widowed. They offer a wide variety of social services, soup kitchens, education and Biblical training to people in Poznan, Kalisz, and Dluga Goslina, which have a combined population of over one million. (Richard Nungesser http://www.intouchmission.org/projects/poland/bread-of-life-homeless-ministry/) You can see the bread of life in these actions. You can see the bread and wine in the tea and granola bars given out in Poland.
There are believed to between eighteen and twenty-four different species of indigenous fish in the Sea of Galilee alone. These fish were a little different than their counter parts than in other bodies of water as is stated in Schaff-Herzog: “In Palestine fish abound in the Jordan, the Sea of Galilee, and in perennial brooks. The Sea of Galilee has a few varieties not found elsewhere, except in tropical waters like the Nile.” (http://thewikibible.pbworks.com/w/page/22174694/Fishing%20in%20the%20Bible%20 and%20the%20Ancient%20Near%20East)
Sunday: August 5, 2012, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time,10th after Pentecost, Proper 13
Readings: [Psalm 51:1-12 or Psalm 78:23-29], [2Samuel 11:26-12:13a or Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15], Ephesians 4:1-16, John 6:24-35
“Jesus said to them, I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true Bread from Heaven. The Bread of God is a direct connection between us and God who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world through bread. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever’ “ (John 6:32-33, 58). Bread, the staff of life, has been a staple food for thousands of years. Whether made from wheat, rye, barley, millet, rice or even potato flour, it has been the basic diet of common people. Bread has been synonymous with food for ordinary working people of many cultures. As the common food of the average Israelite, it featured frequently in the spiritual consciousness and the ceremonial and sacrificial worship of ancient Israel. (http://www.gci.org/church/lordssup/bread)
To understand what Jesus meant by the “Bread of Life” we need to look into the Old Testament concept of bread. The symbolic representation of bread in the Old Testament arises in the context of the Shew bread, or the bread of Presence. This is referred in summary in Heb 9:2 and in detail in Lev 24:5-9 and Ex 25:30. In the Holy of Holies, or in the court of the Assembly where the Israelites gathered together for worship there was on the right hand side a golden table on which was placed twelve bread pieces. It is interesting to note that the golden table represented heaven. It is also significant that the unleavened bread represented the sinless body.
Jesus presents himself as the Bread that came down from heaven. He is saying that He is God incarnate and sinless. There were twelve loaves of bread one for each tribe and were kept in two rows representing the Jews and the Gentiles, the whole of humankind. Jesus came down for the whole of humankind and for every believer in the congregation. (Ninan, Prof M M Perspectives on Lord’s Table [Kindle Edition, 2010] location 2300)
Jesus had adopted an ancient and familiar symbol, and had given it a new and fuller significance. The new significance was not totally unrelated to the ancient significances; but it went much further. For Abraham, breaking bread with Melchizedek had been an act of communion on the human level. But when we Christians partake of Jesus, the bread of God, we have communion not just with one another, but with him and with the Father.
Bread will mean something different to a farmer who grows and grinds the wheat and then bakes the bread than it will to the non-baking suburbanite who regularly purchases a loaf at the store but has never seen a field. The end result – its look, aroma, and taste – may be very similar. But the meaning will be very different. (Wirzba, Norman Food and Faith [Kindle Edition, 2007] p18)
The story of the loaves and fishes is known to be the only miracle included in all four books of the Gospel. In both Matthew and Mark, as second, similar story is told again, with seven loaves and 4,000 people. And in both Matthew and Mark the story comes up a third time, when the disciples say they have no bread and Jesus reminds them of the first two incidences, saying “Do you not understand?”
August 12, 2012, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time,11th after Pentecost, Proper 14
Readings: [Psalm 130 or Psalm 34:1-8], [2Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 or 1Kings 19:4-8], Ephesians 4:25-5:2, John 6:35, 41-51
Jesus’ provision of the loaves and fish was a confirmation in their minds of what He could do for them. Jesus knew that behind their interest in Him was their hope that He would become a different kind of king, so He withdrew from them (John 6:14-15). The next day they looked for Him and found Him, mak ing their quest successful (vv.22,25-26). So they continued to follow Him because of what they thought He could provide. But Jesus turned the tables and identified Himself as the Bread of Life (vv.32-33). They wanted a better life from Him, but He told them He came to offer them eternal life (v.40). Only those who believe in Jesus can find true fulfillment—now and forever. Follow Jesus, not just because He can provide “the loaves,” but because He can satisfy your deepest hunger—the quest for eternal fellowship with Him.
Bonar wrote: I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that life-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in Him.
(http://odb.org/2010/11/12/more-than-loaves/) Jesus offers life itself but not limited life but eternal life that can and will satisfy us all.
August 19, 2012, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time,12th after Pentecost, Proper 15
Readings: [Psalm 111 or Psalm 34:9-14], [1Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 or Proverbs 9:1-6], Ephesians 5:15-20, John 6:51-58
Romanus Melodus was born in the late fifth century in Emesa, Syria; died circa 560 in Constantinople. He was a Byzantine church poet. Romanus Melodus gave literary polish to the kontakion (Hymn), which is a versified sermon with stanzas and a refrain, often containing elements of drama. Melodus wrote:
As they eagerly come to the bread of life,
They hope for eternal salvation from it.
Even though visibility, to all appearances, it is bread.
It sanctifies them spiritually because it is
The heavenly bread of immortality.
(Joel C Elowsky Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Vol IVa [Downers Grove, 2006] p243)
One of the wonderful things about the internet is people sharing their thoughts in online diaries, blogs. One I ran across was a wonderful set of observations about communion. For most of my life, I attended a Lutheran church with a liturgical service. Everything is always very structured, and I kinda like it that way. At college, though, I started going to church with my roommate; and we usually go to Baptist churches. I never realized how different the services were. Even though Communion is done less often in these churches, that's the one thing that I think is hardest for me to get used to. I had to go through a long confirmation class period before I could get to take communion. I was taught that the presence of Christ is in the bread and the wine, and I was used to it being wine and not grape juice. Why grape juice? I can understand why, say, a recovering alcoholic wouldn't want to get near the stuff, but to me, it doesn't feel like the actual sacrament if it isn't wine. I know it is, of course; the meaning is more important than the materials, and I respect all ways of practicing Christianity, even if I can't relate to them.
Honestly, I like both services. Things are very enthused and vibrant in these more contemporary services, but I feel the beautiful ancientness of God more deeply when attending my own church. (http://www.revelife.com/736841614/communion-wine-or-grape-juice/) The writer got something from both services. I wonder if one of the things that the writer got from the differences is a renewed appreciation of Holy Communion.
You can also change the wine you use to wake up people’s taste. If it is not against the polity of your church you might want to one time use desert wine or very sweet grape juice.
August 26, 2012, 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time,13th after Pentecost, Proper 16
Readings: [Psalm 84 or Psalm 34:15-22], [1Kings 8:1, 6, 10-11), 22-30, 41-43 or Joshua 24:1-2a,14-18],Ephesians 6:10-20, John 6:56-69
Have confidence in your own spiritual potentiality, your ability to find your own unique way. Learn from others certainly, and use what you find useful, but also learn to trust your own inner wisdom. Have courage. Be awake and aware. Remember too that Buddhism is not about being a Buddhist; that is, obtaining a new identity tag. Nor is it about collecting head-knowledge, practices and techniques. It is ultimately about letting go of all forms and concepts and becoming free. (http://thebuddhistblog.blogspot.com/2006/06/have-confidence-in-your-own-spiritual.html) To find spiritual awareness takes a lot of practice according to this way of thinking. But as Christians we know that God can give us this spiritual connection without destroying our identity.
There are fewer visitors these days to Sedona’s four vortexes, swirling energy sources emanating from the earth, but the effects are clear: far fewer crystals are being bought, spiritual tours taken and treatments ordered, from aura cleansings to chakra balancing. While no one knows exactly why some do not discount the effects of an awful incident from a year ago that put Sedona’s New Age community in a bad light and that, to some degree, still lingers, despite efforts by metaphysical people to cast it away.
Last October, a celebrated New Age practitioner held a sweat lodge ceremony that ran dangerously amok, shattering the tranquility of a spiritual center hidden in a forested valley here. Still, the tragedy of what occurred, along with the barrage of lawsuits, has caused some outsiders to look elsewhere for fulfillment.
“Initially, I didn’t think it was going to affect business and, a year later, I know I was wrong,” said Deidre Madsen, who runs a New Age travel company in Sedona and a Web site devoted to inner growth. “I’m shocked at the impact. My business is down 20 percent.”
(http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/20/us/20sedona.html?n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/People/R/Ray,%20James%20Arthur?ref=jamesarthurray) Is spirituality a business or is it just an essential part of life?
A quick look at the Passover Meal or Seder finds the first step to be the washing of hands. At several points in the Seder the hands are to be washed. One member of the household pours water from a pitcher over the hands of each of the others, one at a time. Another person carries a bowl to catch the water, and a towel to dry the hands.
The second step is the serving of the appetizer. This is celery and lettuce which may be dipped in water “seasoned” with a bit of vinegar or salt. The third element is the wine. This is a dry, red wine may be spiced with sugar, stick cinnamon, nutmeg, whole cloves, and mixed with hot water in the cup. This is 2 parts wine to 1 part water. Set the table with plates and cups for wine. No eating utensils are necessary. Another element is the fruit-spice sauce (Charoseth), which is a mixture of applesauce, raisins, dried chopped apricots seasoned with cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg makes an adequate fruit-spice sauce. The fourth element is the unleavened bread (Matzo), which is the ordinary matzo available in grocery stores. The next element is the eating of the bitter herbs. The obligation to eat bitter herbs on the night of Passover may be fulfilled by using lettuce, chicory (i.e., endives), pepperwort (i.e., chervil, dittany, dittander), snakeroot (i.e., sea-holly, eryngo), or bitter herbs (horseradish). These may be served fresh or dried, but must not be served pickled ("or preserved in vinegar or kept in water at frequent intervals"). The last element is the Lamb (Pesach). A leg of lamb or lamb shoulder roast may be used. Season the lamb liberally with garlic and rosemary. (http://www.livinghopestafford.org/SederGuidelines.pdf)