TO THOSE persons seeking discussion for Sundays coming forth in the lectionary, we offer a listing according to the three-year calendar.
On the right-hand column of this page, please find the past corresponding year for lectionary years A, B, or C.
And then search the appropriate month in each for a discussion concerning the gospel reading.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Divine Extravagance!

OUR BIBLE Study for the Fourth Sunday in Lent comes to us from the Gospel According to Saint Luke. A parable concerns both errant and faithful persons within the church family, and the work of God on their behalf….

“NOW THE tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." So he (Jesus) told them this parable…
 "There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them. 
 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. 
 And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants."' 
 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry. 
 "Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.' 
 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, 'Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!' 
And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.' “ (Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32)
83850: The Cost of Discipleship The Cost of Discipleship
By Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Situational Repentance?
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Luke’s gospel first addressed this scripture to the diverse Christian communities composed of both Gentiles and Jews. His initial audience was located across the geography of Rome, Greece and Asia Minor. This text we read now was apparently added by the scribes onto an earlier discourse found in the “Q” document… the parables concerning the lost sheep and the lost coin. We testify to this based on the fact that many early parables are also found in the Matthew’s gospel, published in written form about 85-90AD, which is claimed to be a scant few years after this Lukan account that we discuss today. However our subject text, often termed as the, “wandering Jew” parable, is found exclusively in Luke. The story tells about Jesus relating a parable of extravagant forgiveness.
 Within this story is a lad who strays from the fold of family, unconstrained as to tribal morality and expressed faith. The errant youth soon finds that his inheritance is gone, and so gets a job working for a farmer or herdsman. There he is given the task of feeding a herd of pigs. Significant then is that his youthful folly brought him not only to financial and environmental hardship, but he received greater insult that he had to feed that which yet is repugnant to the Jewish kosher palate. Worse yet, he existed in starving and those unworthy animals had plenty to eat. Consequently, we read that he was thus portrayed as being a situational repentant. As such he was challenged by circumstance to return to his sorrowful father, even though we readers might think his reasons may be suspect. Once there, he received a royal welcome from his father... much to the chagrin of the elder brother.
449108: The Chosen: Seasons 1 & 2, DVDS The Chosen: Seasons 1 & 2, DVDS
By Vidangel Productions

Royal Bestowing?
This parable has similar foundation in several Old Testament teachings. They each challenged the ancient tribal custom of male primogeniture, where the first born son got everything at the father’s incapacity or death. and then at will he shared only what he saw fit. The first story we might hold up where God chose to honor persons according to his servant's will, rather than observing human custom, was in the inheritance between Isaac and Ishmael. This is fully described in the book of Genesis. We also raise the example of Joseph.., who was sold into slavery because of his endangering of primogeniture rights… since his father loved him the most though many brothers proceeded him in birth order. Yet God, working in the unfolding history of Israel, granted that Joseph was conferred with first born honors... through a foreign hand.

“Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in garments of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; and he made him to ride in his second chariot; and they cried before him, "Bow the knee!" Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 41:42-43)

  We note that the man, Joseph… was not the first born of his father. But the Genesis text about Joseph reveals that Pharaoh did not have to abide by Hebrew primogeniture,  and as such bypassed the custom because of need and favoritism.
649503: The Hospitality of God: A Reading of Luke"s Gospel The Hospitality of God: A Reading of Luke's Gospel
By Brendan Byrne
 Also found in the writings of the prophets, we find that God historically chose to honor one who had once again come in second…

“Now Joshua, standing before the angel, was clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, "Remove the filthy garments from him." And to him he said, "Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with rich apparel." And I said, "Let them put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments; and the angel of the Lord was standing by.” (Zechariah 3:3-5),

 Therefore we see a pattern concerning exceptions to Jewish tribal primogeniture. We become clearly convinced by Zechariah that God will do what God will do, irregardless of what humans may consider as traditionally right. As Saint Paul clearly states, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… thus condemns all, and chooses according to his divine purpose. Hebrew history reveals that God often chose a family’s second-born to do great tasks.
 This principle of choice holds true in Luke. During Jesus’s ministry, Luke related that our Lord echoed this scriptural truth when approached about a lawsuit between two brothers, Jesus said in Luke 12:13, “Who made me a judge or arbitrator over you”.  Thus we rightly consider in that earlier text, Luke had worked to set the basis for the later telling of this parable. This was so that we already know before God… birth order is a matter that our Lord may entirely disregard! As well, it highlights that God’s purposes are to restore broken family ties.

Why the Younger?
We must note that two issues arise before the radically forgiving father, issues that came before our God as the early Christian church history unfolded. I contend that the wandering son represented the Gentiles that were found in Luke’s churches; whereas, the elder brother embodied apparent inheritance jealousies within the long, seemingly faithful Jewish contingent.
 Because the story was found as such only in Luke, I postulate from this singularity that in the infant Christian communities dispersed widely in geography… and ranging greatly in ethnic population having both Jewish persons and Gentiles… may have contained Jewish elders lamenting. These may have thought that they were not treated properly with seniority deference. Hence this story not only related the luxury of undeserved forgiveness for the Gentiles, which brings them back into the household in royal fashion.., but a gentle smack of “get over it!” was being given to the beloved Jewish persons within the early church. These latter had erroneously believed that their dietary adherence and Sabbath laws and good works should cause them an earned priority. However, as Saint Paul emphasized, we are not saved by works but by faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
 Take note that the elder son in the story, when arguing his case for primacy, challenged the right of his father to dispense free grace. Is this not a sign of disrespect… a sin was thus committed by the elder before the father… by accusing that he was unfit for the task of leading the family?
182366: Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue
By Edwin H. Friedman

What Now?
Now we must ask today whether the Church walks the same paths of pride-filled faith expression. Do we stagger before God making accusations, falling beneath satanic powers that whisper into our jealous ears? Do we retain a self-centered false righteousness? Do we harbor against our God, growing discomfort that the divine nature gives to another an undeserved, grand reception.
 Do we jealously see acceptance and celebration as unfair? Do we make nasty noises whenever a denomination, a faith community, or person returns to the household of God without a blatant compensatory sign… and are blessed by our Father for so doing? I fear that in all cases the answer is in the affirmative. We who are now elder children yet have much to learn.
 I dare say that recent headlines found in modern church publications call those who have strayed from right interpretation of scripture to return to the farm. We wish them to cease feeding the secular swine popular, worldly opinion, but we also act superior when they do repent. In the name of our Lord, I say that all elder brothers need to be reminded by this text whenever such wanderers return. We would be well advised to drop haughty “works righteousness” attitudes. Let us rejoice in our Lord’s grace.

 Those who repent, even those whose motivations are suspect, are yet forgiven. This needs to be celebrated. Churches that develop a tightening of cliques in reaction whenever a lapsed or heretical member shows up at the door, or a new family begins to attend with secular-tainted faith expressions, often incredulously wonder when their stiff-necked behavior causes participation and attendance to fall away. This attitude should not stand among us!
 I conclude therefore, with these words of admonition and guidance from scripture…

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory.
 Likewise you that are younger be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world.
 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you. 
 To Him is the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.  (1 Peter 5:1-11).

 We who are called unto the Lord’s purpose need say again… let us be reconciled to one another for the planting of the gospel seeds. So may it be… Amen

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Of Tombs Made Open...

OUR BIBLE lesson for the Third Sunday of Lent comes to us from the Gospel According to Saint Luke. Presented is a scriptural account concerning Jesus’ words spoken about the future of persons in this world who disregard God’s will. He addressed sin and death, and to whom should the oppressed flee for salvation.

There were some present at that very time who told him (Jesus) of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 
 Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, “No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” 
 And he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, 'Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?' 
 And he answered him, 'Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.”  (Luke 13:1-9)
89738: Problems in Theology: War and Peace Problems in Theology: War and Peace
By Jeff Astley, Brown & Ann Loades

Warning Signs?
First to do proper justice to any Bible study, we must prayerfully view each occasion as a conversation between ourselves and God. Therefore to interact with the text properly, we are to maintain a method of “exegesis”, rather than “eisogesis”. This means that we are to receive knowledge from God’s holy Word speaking clearly to us, rather than imposing upon it what we want to hear. If we sinfully do the latter, we place ourselves in great danger. The consequence can be much more horrid than experiencing physical death.
 Doing proper exegesis with this text from Luke then, we note that it helps to cradle this wondrous message within the environment of what had been said both before and after our reading. Thus we get a better picture of the “sitz en leben” (situation-in-life)” to which the text relates. Using this technique, we find that Jesus taught while he continued undaunted toward the Jerusalem temple. He knowingly walked toward the cross of Calvary. While doing so, he emphasized to those around him that the conflict that our faith in God causes will put us at odds with those who are bent toward establishing or maintaining their own worldly powers.

 Our Lord thus reminded his listeners that God confronts evil. This is why we clearly need to hear the warning. for as sinners we are in league with evil. The verses said that our Lord reminded his listeners of the Roman killings of Jews in Galilee, about how all died and everyone is considered the same in mortality. But we note that the text we find here was recorded Luke’s gospel alone. We must ask, therefore, why this is so.
 To answer, first let us consider that this gospel was written c. 85 AD, likely in Asia-Minor. Therefore the gospel writing was more gathered and expansive than that of blessed Mark's witness (written c. 65-70 A.D.) My thought thus centers in the idea that this reading may more fully tell of this scene because many Lukan churches were receiving continued persecutions from Rome, but were gathering without the apostolic presence that the earlier churches enjoyed. As well, it is likely that Luke enjoyed greater resources for expanding the original witness. Consequently, relating Jesus’ conversation about persecutions and death became more important and could be more easily accomplished. Thus we wonder if the expanded text intentionally addressed growing anxieties specifically within Luke’s audience?
 Take note that the reading reminded those of Luke’s house churches that death is our human lot before God. This stands historically, as the almost universal and unchanging divine punishment for human sin. Therefore, the reading clearly reminded Christian followers to repent of sins and doubt without delay. Through Luke, Jesus called upon them to realize forgiveness and the promise of eternal life that had been given to them through our Lord's sacrifice.

 Why was this reminder so important? The answer I think resides in the unfolding history of the Church. By the time of this gospel’s writing and its distribution, stories of such as the horrific deaths that had occurred during fall of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the slaughter of Jews at Masada (c.70A.D.) had most certainly caused great fear in all the Jewish and Gentile communities. This fear, as designed by Rome, quaked persons in Asia Minor, Israel and Syria alike. We note that at the time of the temple's destruction, the Jews of Jerusalem had been widely dispersed by Rome. Thus the Jewish leaders had widely scattered, and had fallen to scapegoating in the synagogues of Israel and the Gentile regions. Consider that while yet steeped in the holy work of translating the Hebrew scriptures into Greek, they pointed beyond themselves to the “troublesome” Christians. They stated to suspicious Roman authorities that subversive Christians were causing trouble. First, they said the Christians were causing unrest, by failing to keep the Jew's kosher rules. Second, they were into such far out travesties as grave robbing and cannibalism. In this last the Jews railed hotly against Christians. They threw many out of synagogue membership clamoring that they “drank the blood and ate the body” as part of their cult's liturgical rituals. By complaining to the Romans who were charged with maintaining the peace, the Jews deflected Rome’s suspicions placed upon themselves... and regained a more tolerated status around the Empire.
2813399: A Short History of the Early Church A Short History of the Early Church
By Harry Boer / Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

For readers who want a brief yet reliable introduction to the history of the early church as well as for those who are looking for a quick review of the period, this volume furnishes a concise overview of the key events, figures, controversies, and councils essential for a proper understanding of the first seven centuries of the Christian church. Harry R. Boer provides background on the world into which the church was born, surveys the life of the church from the minstry of Jesus until 600 A.D., examines the effects of persecution and heresy on the church, explains the role of several key church leaders, and focuses specifically on the church's ongoing struggle to formulate proper doctrines of the Trinity and of Christ. Each chapter is clearly outlined and concludes with several discussiquestions that enhance the book's use as a study guide for church groups or as a text in courses on early church history.

Be Forgiven and Proclaiming!
We note that rather than reprisals, even in the face of threat an evangelical emphasis was next driven home by Luke. In the second portion of today’s lesson we see that he passed along Mark's recorded story of Jesus talking about the fruitless fig tree. The scene had been delivered to at least the church in Rome and Alexandria by the earlier gospel (Mark 11:12-14). We must therefore ask, “Why was this fig tree story used here?” I doesn't seem to fit in with the previous conversation.
 The answer for its presence becomes clear as we remember that this section was likely derived directly from Mark… or from the same source that Mark used. It had warned Mark's communities against barrenness of witness. You see, the warning about being cut down as an unproductive branch was well placed. In Luke's gospel then, the focused task as inheritor’s of the apostolic message was that they were to remain faithful to the gospel proclamation, even though the apostles were gone from the scene. We are reminded that both Peter and Paul had died over a decade before this Lukan writing.

 We are also reminded that this gospel reading told of certain physical death for every human being, and reminded of the established call to continue in the face of persecutions. The connection comes to us through Luke from the mouth of Christ. It was Jesus then, through the Spirit, who called Luke’s readers to repentance and forgiveness. They, and therefore we also… are called by him to “turn away” from depending upon how this world’s powers are going to behave. In the midst of our living and dying, we are to just bear fruit… and preach the gospel!
 Given that all evil being the same in effect now as then, and that we humans are not now to hope for longevity or lasting accomplishment outside of Christ, let us be reminded in knowing that we are each sinful. Towers most certainly still fall upon us as well as the ancients. They do so upon us and upon everyone around us. Therefore, we Christians should realize that today those who yet live amid the echoes of the World Trade Center crash need to hear and be graciously baptized into the kingdom. You see, in baptism received by faith, we are receiving the promise from God that we are the recipients of eternal life. This life was and is yet given through the crucifixion, death and Resurrections of Jesus Christ.
204411: Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians
By Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert & Nina Shea
  Consequently, we of the Christian church have been given a gift which is to be opened, used abundantly and shared. By doing that task, we shall bear the fruit of God’s holy Word. Though we are shoveled alike into graves alongside unbelievers... laying in the dirt and manure of either local or world news... as redeemed sinners made saints our words may bring others into the kingdom of God. The very proof of the Holy Spirit’s working through our Christian witness shall be seen and heard by those who come after us.
 Certainly, let us be reminded then. Though we are yet sinful sheep following our Good Shepherd, we are brought to realize that we share the character of Luke’s communities. We too wander distressed and scattered, but by this reading we of the Christian church may also see that our salvation comes not by our own doing, Through Christ's work upon the cross, salvation come to us through the power of the Holy Spirit working the miracle of faith within us. Jesus calls us through the Spirit.., “Turn around… be forgiven, and believe the Good News!” We who are the baptized today exist just as the churches of Luke, empowered only through grace upon grace. We remain called as those so long ago to proclaim salvation to others, so they may join with us at the foot of the cross.

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