Archives: Proper 22

What To Do When You Don’t Like What the Bible Says

I came very close this week to doing something I have never done before.

I came very close this week to cheating and not preaching on the assigned scriptures for the day.

There’s no way around it, they’re just awful.

But I’m not one to run away from a challenge, so let’s see what we can make of them. Even if we come out of this only having learned that there are some parts of the Bible that just do not feel like Good News, at least we will have engaged honestly and asked the Holy Spirit to reveal to us why we had to read these lessons today.

Job is a deeply problematic text.

People for generations have found comfort in Job’s stoicism through suffering.

I admire Job’s stubbornness, but God in this text?

As Virginia Woolf said, “I read the Book of Job last night. I don’t think God comes out of it well.” Continue reading

1928, 2017, 10

Today we’re starting our Historic Liturgies project at St. Francis.

We really started it last week with the 1979 prayerbook liturgy that we use every week, but that’s so familiar it doesn’t really count.

This is the first week we’ll really strike out to try something different with our 1928 prayerbook liturgy.

Next week we’ll do 1789, then 1662, and finally 1549, the first Book of Common Prayer compiled by Cranmer himself.

Robert and I have collaborated on this project, and we’ve had to shorten most of the liturgies a bit.

The older prayerbooks had long, long exhortations to communion. This goes back to the days when lay people were not used to receiving communion more than once or twice a year and had to be encouraged by the priest to come to the altar.

One bit we took out this week which I’ve since realized we really should have kept in, was the Decalogue.

The Decalogue is the recitation of the 10 Commandments in worship, and it used to be at the beginning of every service of Holy Communion.

This goes back to the days when most people were illiterate, and Cranmer and his associates hoped that hearing the 10 Commandments at the beginning of every service would help people learn and memorize them.

In the 1662 rubrics, the priest is instructed to “rehearse distinctly all the 10 Commandments,”—make sure they really hear it!

We took it out this week to shorten the service, but you’ll see we’ll have a chance to reflect on it anyway because it is our scripture today from Exodus.

A colleague told me this week of a fascinating interpretation of the 10 Commandments he read that I’d like to share with you. “At the Red Sea, God took the Israelites out of Egypt. At Mount Sinai, God took Egypt out of the Israelites.”

Wow! Isn’t that an interesting thought? Continue reading

I Have Something to Say. About Evangelism.

Today I am going to get up on my soapbox, so just brace yourselves.

This is a ranty, possibly self-righteous screed with many iterations of phrases like, “And another thing!”

So strap in, and hold on.

Rant commences here: let me tell you something. I am sick and tired of Episcopalians acting like they’re too cool for evangelism.

We are grown men and women, and what’s more, we are grown men and women who have been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And we have an affirmative moral obligation to make the grace and mercy and peace we have been so richly anointed with available to people who have not encountered it.

I see three common attitudes with regard to evangelism in the Episcopal Church. Continue reading

Leaving Middle Management: Choosing Downward Mobility

Jesus’ parables have layer upon layer of meaning within them, and today’s story about the vineyard owner has quite the cast of characters.

Let’s search for where we are in this parable, and where we’d like to be.

So the basic plot elements are as follows:  the vineyard owner plants a vineyard and works quite hard at making it state of the art.  There is a fence, a winepress, and a watchtower.

Then he entrusts it to this group of tenants and leaves the country.

These tenants appear to have been a very bad investment, however.  They are angry, violent, greedy people.

Each time the landowner sends his slaves to bring in the harvest, they are beaten and killed by the tenants.

Not even the vineyard owner’s son escapes the same fate.

Jesus ends the story asking what will happen to the wicked tenants when the vineyard owner confronts them, and the chief priests and Pharisees predict a sticky end for them.

As we begin to mine the text for meaning and guidance, we are of course to begin by placing ourselves in the role of the tenants.

It’s not a very flattering picture of ourselves, but let’s explore it.

Of course we do not go around beating and murdering people.

But do we always welcome with open arms the people and situations God sends into our lives? Continue reading

When Jesus Has a Bad Day

Today’s gospel is always a nice little putting on of the brakes for my ego.  Whenever I start to get too proud of myself for my work and my efforts and my ministry, I can remember what Jesus says here, which is basically, well, that’s just your job.  And I don’t mean the job for which I get a paycheck.  That’s our job as Christians.

To be faithful servants.

Jesus says in our gospel today that we are not to expect any thanks for that good and faithful service, but I wonder about that when I take a look at the very next part of Luke, the part we will in fact read next week.  Let’s put both of them side by side and see what we can discern about where Jesus is in this moment.

First we read: “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, `Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, `We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'”

The very next verses in the text that we will read next week, say this: “On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.””

Now think about that for a moment.  First, Jesus says, rather vehemently I may add, don’t expect any thanks for what you do in ministry.  Then, not five minutes later, he complains, rightly of course, about not getting thanked for his ministry.

Do you know what I think is happening here? Continue reading