July 20, 2014 Pentecost 6 – “Hope”

Title:July 20, 2014 Pentecost 6 – “Hope”

  Sunday, July 20, 2014  (full size gallery)

We had 31 in attendance. Mid summer is here with Vacation Bible School just a week away. Lining up participation and help continued.

The altar was adorned with sunflowers which were given out after the service to the Everetts. Crystal returned with Fred after a long period of convalescence. Justin and Karen were beaming – their wedding is only a month away  

Ken also convened the first organization meeting of Port Royal Tutors for the fall. The program may be broadened into not just tutoring but mentoring. It is likely that the tutoring/mentoring will be done at the church this year. There were some good ideas presented – like adding name tags for the tutors, providing more resources during the sessions, adding games to attract the older children, offering an open house as way to get started.  Overall an upbeat session. 

The lectionary speaks of fear this week. So what causes the fear ? There is an “enemy” in each of these readings – Isaiah – Babylonians since the Jews were in captivity, Psalm – by a force that nearly killed the writer – Romans – “flesh” Gospel – “Devil” .

We are confronted with fear in our jobs, our homes and our world. It is ever present and diverts us from productive activities. Despite our increasing knowledge and interconnectedness, fear is very much a part of our world and maybe even more in the last generation. 

Fear is equated with slavery. There is also a repetition of the idea of two ways—Paul uses “flesh” and “spirit,” but in broad strokes these refer to living according to the values of the world (in this context, the Roman Empire) or living according to the values of Jesus, which point directly to God. Flesh resists the power of God. To live in fear is to be enslaved; to be led by the Spirit is to be a child of God. 

The email newsletter this week contained examples of the human spirit rising up in several forms to confront real obstacles which certainly had fear as part of them. Witness the Apollo 11 landing with just 30 seconds of fuel left, a bicycle team which became a team in Rwanda despite the genocide there in 1994, Stuart Scott, the ESPN announcer that has not given to his cancer. 

The sermon was all about hope to counter this fear. – God’s hope

"The kind of hope I’m talking about is the kind of hope that God has! Patient, persistent, and proactive hope. "

"Along with our adoption as God’s sons and daughters, God gives us hope so that we can go out in the world and be agents of God’s transforming love.

 "In fact, we inherit the kind of hope God has—patient hope and persistent hope that perseveres and even suffers in the face of what seems to be hopeless. "

"When we live with the kind of hope God has, we don’t have to say, “Well, it’s a broken world, and so I need to respond to violence with violence in order to protect myself,” because that kind of hopelessness just perpetuates the old cycle of hatred and destruction that has kept human beings caught up in conflict since the beginning of time.

"This hope we inherit is also the kind of proactive hope God has. God didn’t just wait for us to get it together and turn ourselves around.  

"OK, so someone (in this case God) does something wonderful for us (in our case as Christians—the life, death and resurrection of Jesus) which we can’t possibly pay back, but instead, we pay the debt forward by doing something wonderful for someone else.  

".. God is still, against all odds, and against our track record as human beings, patiently and persistently hoping that we will become God’s image and God’s agents in the world. And God can see the fulfillment and completion of creation, something we can’t yet see." 

"But maybe—just maybe– because of our actions, someone got a little vision of heaven on earth—God’s love bearing fruit in the world. And because we have patient and persistent hope, we can continue to do proactive acts of love for others, and for creation, even when the results remain invisible to us. "

The sermon is here with the readings  and bulletin.

Commentary on this week’s lectionary from Canon Lance Ousley of the Diocese of Olymbia 

The Old Testament readings are from the Wisdom of Solomon and the prophet Isaiah. Each of these proclaim God as the only and only god shattering all claims from any others who would claim divine rights. Each also deny the deification of anything but God. These claims are profound coming from the wealth of Solomon and the context of polytheistic and materialistic Babylon. There is much to be said about how we spend our time and what is worshipped in our culture. Too often in our present time there is a high value put on the accumulation of wealth for wealth’s sake (and the "value" of the individual) rather than for the sake of doing good facilitating the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. Like Babylon we worship many "deities" we make in our culture, which include money, power, fame, beauty, material goods and celebrities, just to name a few. This is self-serving and time wasted in the futile pursuit of self valuation. The value of humanity and of all of creation is derived from God, our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. A worshipful life dedicated to the one true God is time well spent.

Both of our options from the psalter address God’s presence among us and a desire to be led by God in righteousness for the days of our lives. The acknowledgment of God’s presence itself is worshipful setting our mind on God in which live and move and have our being in the world. This mindset is appreciative of the blessings of creation and God’s presence, therefore more responsive to living in light of this relationship to the world. If the steward loves God, wouldn’t the steward love and care for what God has made?

Paul continues this week to address the Romans and their dualistic struggle of living in the world, but not of the world. Their theology is deeply rooted in identity, and there is much anxiety over the differences between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians in the Church there. Paul takes the context of their legalistic issues of identity through the "flesh" (circumcision) and places it here in a broader vision of identity contrasted with fleshly desires of the world and the desires of the Spirit. Paul urges them to let go of their fear and to accept their adoption by the Spirit into Christ as children of God. This is to be their true identity marked by their faithful lives led by the Spirit in the world, but not of the world.

This is a major problem for us in the Church in North America. It can be hard to identify Christians in our culture because while we are in the world, so often we also are "of it." Yet Paul advocates, "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God." Paul does not want us to waste time wringing our hands over worldly (fleshly) desires, but to be about the work of Christ into which we have been adopted through the Spirit. Creation’s groaning in labor pains is in response to the futility of the pursuits of fleshly desires much like Isaiah addressed to his audience in exile in Babylon. Creation anxiously awaits the birth of the kingdom of God fully into the world delivered by the Spirit through Christ and his joint-heirs (us!). This is how we are to be identified in the world, by the way we faithfully spend our time doing Christ’s work in the world.

Jesus poses us with a difficult text in the black and white world of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (weeds) and the harsh judgment that follows in its explanation. We easily could get bogged down in the "weeds" of identifying who is who in relation to the parable. However, the point of the parable is not for us to spend time judging others or fretting our own judgment, but rather for us to spend our time doing what "children of the kingdom" are to do in the world. The reality of our lives is that we co-exist with good and bad all around us (even within our own selves) and the lines are not always so clear cut. So there is much work to do in being identified as "children of the kingdom" through doing Christ’s work in the world. A life that focuses on sowing seeds of God’s kingdom bears the fruit of love and grace and peace and mercy. Faithfully spending our time being bread for the world helps to keep us from spending our time entwined with the weeds of the world, and it stems the tide of those things antithetical to God’s kingdom. This is time well spent which helps to burn away the weeds in our own lives, too.

How will you spend your time this week?

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