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Title:Pentecost 9, Year C
Pentecost 9, Aug. 11, 2019 (full size gallery)
We had 40 in the service on a sunny day with moderate temperatures and some wind blowing. We had several birthdays, including Thom Guthrie who was on hand. Tucker Fisher was back from a scout trip to Philmont and then an extension to Germany, riding bikes from Copenbagen to Berlin.
The sermon was a cultural look back at a portion of the Gospel with help from a book by Kenneth Bailey:
“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.” – Luke 12:35-36
“Our master has withdrawn from the wedding banquet and he himself has brought us food from the banquet in order to include us, his slaves, in the festivities, and he even waits on us himself. This behavior is unheard of! Truly, we are the most blessed of servants!
“The people who heard Jesus tell this parable may have understood it in the way we’ve just experienced it. When we hear this parable today, we may hear it in the following way. We are truly blessed to be the servants of our Lord in our own time. Our Lord is the Lord who comes into our midst every time we gather in the Lord’s name, who prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies.
Our Lord is the Lord, who after feeding us, doesn’t even stop there but insists on washing our feet, too, and making us clean. Our Lord is the Lord who presides at the heavenly wedding banquet and yet would leave that table to come to ours and to serve us here around this table with bread and wine, his own body and blood. ”
This week’s readings help us to understand our heritage of faith and to strengthen our trust in God. In Genesis , Abram puts his faith and his family’s future in God’s promises. The psalmist sings the praises of the sovereign Creator God. The author of Hebrews gives examples from salvation history of the faith that pleases God. Jesus cautions his disciples to live in a manner that reflects the imminent possibility of his unexpected return.
At this point in the book of Genesis, the perspective changes from the story of humanity (Genesis 1–11) to the story of a specific man, Abram (Genesis 12–23), and through him and his offspring, to the story of a chosen people.
Today’s reading repeats the earlier promise of posterity to Abram (12:1-3, 13:16). Because of his childlessness, Abram was relying upon the custom of adopting a child born of a slave as his heir. But in response to God’s promise of descendants, Abram “believed the Lord,” that is, trusted God. This put him in the right relationship to God, that of “righteousness.” Abram recognizes God’s promise as valid, and this interaction indeed makes it absolute fact. This attitude and relationship then become the basis for righteous deeds.
This psalm was probably recited at the great autumn festival of Tabernacles, which celebrated both the creation and the history of Israel. It is introduced by a call to the congregation to praise the Lord (vv. 1-5). Then it praises God as Creator (vv. 6-9) and as the Lord of history (vv. 10-19). Verses 20-22 are a concluding confession of trust. The psalmist knows that God’s word and works are unchanging (v. 4) and that God delivers the chosen people (vv. 12, 18-19) because of the covenant promises.
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Today’s reading begins a four-week sequence of readings from the letter to the Hebrews. Despite its title, very little can be known for sure about the author or the audience. The book is much more like a theological treatise with a strong pastoral emphasis than like a letter. The author calls it “my word of exhortation” (13:22). It may originally have been a sermon or series of sermons put in writing for the benefit of those who should have become leaders and teachers (5:12) of their congregation but who have become discouraged (10:32, 12:12), perhaps by persecution (12:4).
To encourage them, the author has produced a subtly argued and elegantly written work in excellent Greek. He refers to the Greek version of the Old Testament (called the Septuagint) and employs the terminology of Greek thought as it had been adapted by Jewish philosophers who applied Platonic concepts to Judaism. Both author and audience seem to belong to the generation of believers after the apostles (2:3, 13:7).
In the main body of the letter the author has established the superiority of Jesus to the prophets, to angels and to Moses; the superiority of Christ’s priesthood to the Levitical priesthood; and the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice offered for all time in the heavenly sanctuary to the repeated sacrifices offered on earth by the levitical priests. Given that reality, he can exhort his audience to perseverance.
Today’s reading is a roll call of Old Testament examples of faith. Verse 11:1 is not a complete definition of faith, but rather a consideration of one of its important dimensions. Faith is an active attitude that, based upon past experience and outward signs, makes a present and vivid reality out of the future and the unseen. This trust in the reality of the relationship with, and the promises of, God is especially exemplified by Abraham.
Today’s sayings and parables are told in the context of imminent crisis. The climax of Jesus’ ministry is approaching and with it the judgment of Israel. Thus the time of trial for his disciples and the time of decision for all is also at hand. The disciples are to trust their welfare to God, who is the source of their security.
The parable of the doorkeeper gave the early Church a way to think about the delay of Jesus’ second coming and the need for constant watchfulness because of his unexpected return. The critical point for decision, whether met in Jesus’ ministry, in his death and resurrection, or in the expectation of his return, confronts every listener.
“See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness” (Psalm 33: 18). The Spanish-speaking and Native American peoples have a lovely yarn craft called “Ojos de Dios” or “God’s eyes.” It symbolizes God’s beneficial watchfulness over us.
However, God’s all-seeing, ever-present eye is not a comforting thought to everyone. In order for this to be a soul-warming concept, we must have an understanding of the true nature of God. As the psalmist says, we must be among “those who hope in his kindness.” To those who await only God’s judgment, the thought of God’s eye upon them is threatening rather than comforting.
The opposite of faith is fear. Jesus’ exhortation, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,” is really an appeal to trust God. Trust and love go together. In our human relationships, we know that we trust more where mutual love exists and trust the least where there is no love. We are told that, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love” (1 John 4:18).
It has been said that every human being responds to God’s existence, either in fear or in love, that is, to judgment or salvation. When we have grasped the good news of God’s steadfast love towards us, the Lord becomes our help and our shield. That God’s eye is upon us is our most supportive thought. We can never be lost or alone because God sees us in all times and places. God’s love will provide for us and reward us as we seek God’s will.
We seek God’s will because we are certain that it is our Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom. We trust God’s perfect love, and this casts out our fear. We have confidence for the day of judgment. When the Lord returns, our lamps will be burning brightly for the celebration that will be like a marriage feast. Hearts that have held the treasure of Jesus’ saving love will tremble with joy at his appearing.