Pentecost 7, Year C

Title:Pentecost 7, Year C

 Pentecost 7, July 28, 2019 (full size gallery)

Last week we had the first of two weeks on Acolyte Training on Wed., July 24 at 1pm. At 2pm the summer program got underway with 10 children. This week Catherine told them the story of Jesus healing the blind man by taking some dirt in his hand and spitting in it to make mud, putting the mud on the blind man’s eyes and then asking the man to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. When the man washed the mud from his eyes, he could see! Then we made dirt cake to eat and slime for playing with at home.

On Friday we had the 2nd of three sessions on Spanish Bible Study. Attendance was down as Claudia, the main resource from Bowling Green, was sick.

On Sunday, the weather was clear and warm but not unbearable hot. Unlike other Sunday several varieties of butterflies were present, enjoying the phlox. Catherine returned after two Sundays of vacation. Here is a short video of the swallowtail butterfly along the driveway.

We held two services on the last Sunday. Attendance was 8 at 9am and we celebrated Howard and Millie’s anniversary. 27 were at 11am and we celebrated Eunice’s birthday.

The sermon was based on the Gospel from Luke who asked him to teach them to pray as John the Baptist had for his disciples. “God gives us keys to help us open the doors we have locked.
And prayer is that key which unlocks our hearts to God.” The sermon examined 5 of these keys from Catherine’s key ring?

“Father, hallowed be your name.” God’s love.
“Your kingdom come.” Hope.
“Give us each day our daily bread.” Dependence.
“And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.” “Love your neighbor.”
“And do not bring us to the time of trial.” Trust.

Today’s readings encourage us to relate to God with boldness and persistence. In Genesis , Abraham intercedes with God, bargaining for the righteous who live in Sodom. The psalmist gives thanks for God’s strong hand in a time of trouble. Paul warns the Colossians not to exchange the Lordship of Christ for human teachings. Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray and illustrates the right attitudes with a story.

Genesis 18:20-32

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was a common example among the prophets for human wickedness that brings God’s just judgment. The specific kind of evil was variously indicated. Isaiah identified it with social and judicial vices (Isaiah 1:9-10, 3:9). Jeremiah associated it with the prophets’ betrayal of their vocation (Jeremiah 23:14). Ezekiel connected it with pride and neglect of the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:46-56).

The “outcry” against the sins of these towns prompts the Lord to investigate. Because of Abraham’s covenant relationship, he is allowed to know God’s secret thoughts. Unfamiliar with the ways of the Lord, Abraham intercedes for the innocent who will suffer the same fate as the guilty sinners. But even though God is willing to bargain, apparently there were not even ten just persons to be found for God soon brings utter destruction to these towns.

The passage from Genesis is one of the most sublime revelations of the nature of God in the Bible. The extraordinary dialogue between Abraham and God teaches us two vital lessons: first, that God hears the prayers of those whose hearts are in tune with God’s; secondly, that God’s readiness to pardon is an integral factor in God’s justice.

Abraham’s boldness in challenging God came from his firm conviction that the Lord could not act contrary to perfect justice by destroying the righteous indiscriminately with the wicked. “Shall not the judge of all earth do right?” This certain and lofty conception of the character of God still has not been fully grasped. For centuries, human societies have continued to truncate and pervert the biblical concept of divine justice, and very often human justice is untempered by mercy.

Abraham’s controversy with God also revealed the noble character of this patriarch whose name means “friend of God.” Abraham went to God in prayer with a conflict in his heart. His own sense of justice—“will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?”—stood against his belief that the wicked must pay the penalty for their wickedness. Here, in Abraham, we see the intimations of God’s own dilemma with human creatures. In Christ we see the solution God provided.

Psalm 138

This psalm of thanksgiving has many parallels with the later parts of Isaiah, and was probably written sometime after the return from exile. The “gods” of verse 1 may be the members of the heavenly council or the rulers and gods of other nations. Verses 1-4 give praise for the Lord’s help, and verses 5-7 describe the effect of God’s majesty and mercy upon the kings of the earth. The psalm concludes with an expression of the psalmist’s trust that God will personally care for him. Although all creation is under God’s care, the Lord’s intimate love is available to each individual.

Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)

Paul reminds the Colossians that they have “received”—a technical term for the handing on of normative tradition (1 Corinthians 11:23, 15:1, 3)—”Christ Jesus the Lord.” Thus they are to “live in him” as the only foundation for their faith.

Paul warns them against “philosophy.” In Paul’s time the word meant, not rational inquiry, but occult speculations and practices. Such teachings were concerned with propitiating “the elemental spirits of the universe,” probably here referring to angels or to the stars and planets conceived of as living beings having influence over our world. In their hierarchically ordered picture of the universe, the “fullness of deity” was thought to emanate from the highest god and be distributed among the heavenly powers. Paul claims that this “fullness” is Christ’s alone, for he is above all these powers.

God’s activity changes everything. Those who were “dead” because of their sins, God has forgiven by canceling the record of indebtedness (a common Judaic figure for sin). Like the captives of a triumphant Roman emperor, the intermediary heavenly powers have been stripped and disgraced.

Luke 11:1-13

Today’s reading illustrates Jesus ideas about the words and attitudes required for prayer to God. In this simple Lukan form, the prayer reflects the expectations of the relationship of a benevolent patron (a father of a household, king or master) to his dependents.

The opening address identifies God as our heavenly father. The first set of petitions indicate how we, as God’s dependents, will fulfill our part of the relationship by respecting the holiness of God’s name (or person) and make our own God’s aim of creating the kingdom community here on earth.

The second set of petitions asks God to fulfill the divine obligations in the relationship by providing food (“our daily bread”), forgiving our offenses (conditioned, of course, on our forgiveness of others), and protecting us from evil.

Jesus then illustrates both the nature of our petitions and the response of God in a parable. The parable is a “can you imagine” situation, focusing on the readiness of the friend to help. In the context in which Luke places it, attention is shifted to the “persistence” of the needy friend. On the principle of what applies to smaller things ought to apply even more to greater things, the parable encourages us to believe that the Father’s answer to our prayerful petitions will always be more ready and certain than that of humans.

In the gospel passage, Jesus intends to make only one point in his story about the midnight caller. If we, who are not good, know how to respond to a reasonable or good request, how much more will God fulfill requests that are borne to God in earnest prayer.