Pentecost 10, Year C

Title:Pentecost 10, Year C

 Pentecost 10, Aug. 18, 2019 (full size gallery)

We had 39 in church, welcoming a few guests. We celebrated the birthday of Boyd Wisdom as well as a number of anniversaries – the Wisdoms, the Dukes, and the Everetts. We had one of our new acolytes in the service.

Catherine acknowledged David Duke’s contribution of a button found with his metal detector as well as old photo of the Parish House.

The sermon used Jesus Gospel reading, ““I come to bring fire to the earth,” Jesus said, “and how I wish it were already kindled.”

Jesus speaks of his ministry, through which he intended to reveal and establish right relationships, as being “to set the earth on fire.” Fire is an apt image of God’s transforming presence because it leaves nothing that it touches the same as before. Fire destroys but with it also purifies. A second image is baptism in which water can be death or life. Fire was also part of the Jeremiah Old Testament reading – “Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?”

“Jesus invites us, his disciples, to be flames in his purifying fire, helping to burn away the injustices that keep God’s kingdom from becoming a reality here on this earth. Along with Jesus, let’s get impatient for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. ”

It used Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to eight clergy members who had written a letter to the Birmingham paper objecting to the campaign for civil rights going on in their town. In their letter they appealed to ‘both our white and Negro citizenry to observe the principles of law and order and common sense.’”

To this day, we end up being concerned more about right belief and right doctrine than how we live out our faith. When we look to the prophets and to Jesus, we see God hearing the cries of the poor, the widows and the orphans. We see Jesus eating among the sinners and tax collectors and the prostitutes. We hear the rejection of Jesus by others being a rejection of God’s love for all people, but especially the marginalized and outcasts. This same rejection happens today—we fashion Jesus into being concerned about right belief, when Jesus seems clearly to be concerned with how we love one another. We continue to miss the mark, transforming a love for all, especially those on the margins, into a love for a few who are obedient to a set of rules.

“Martin Luther King, Jr., asked the following question in his letter to those patient, lukewarm clergy fence sitters, who claimed, of course, that their allegiance was to God.

“So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality…the other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness…”

Today’s readings recognize the connection between speaking out for God and making enemies. In Jeremiah, the Lord denounces those false prophets who tell lies in God’s name. The author of Hebrews urges believers to accept hardship as a divine aid to discipline. Jesus warns that his ministry will bring a time of spiritual crisis. 

Jeremiah 23:23-29

Jeremiah began his prophetic ministry in 627 BC, and ended it about 580 BC. His career spanned the period culminating in the Kingdom of Judah’s final defeat by the Babylonians, the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the temple, and the exile of the major part of the population. In the time before the final defeat, some prophets advocated resistance while Jeremiah counseled submission to Babylonian rule as being God’s will.

Today’s reading makes clear that the Lord is fully aware of the activities of these false prophets and brings them to judgment. God is no local deity easily hoodwinked, but transcendent and omnipresent. God is not revealed in dreams, but in visionary experiences (the classical prophetic tradition distinguished strongly between dreams and visions). God’s word does not result in the forgetting of God’s name. Its impact is challenging, not soothing. The final result is never complacency but radical obedience. 

Psalm: Psalm 82

This psalm celebrates Israel’s God as the ruler over all the nations and their protective deities. In the heavenly assembly, God calls these unjust deities to accountability (vv. 2-4), takes away their exalted status and reduces them to mere mortals (vv. 4-7) because of their misrule. The final verse is a plea for universal justice.

Hebrews 11:29–12:2

In this continuation of last week’s reading, the author recalls examples of faith from throughout Israel’s history. He recalls the experience of the early Israelites during their exodus from Egypt and their trek through the wilderness to the promised land. He alludes to the Judges, the kings and the prophets whose faith provided and protected the nation. 

Through many trials and persecutions, these ancestors persevered because of their trust in God. However, they “did not receive what was promised,” because God had an unexpected surprise in store through Jesus, who will be the perfect model of faith. 

Verse 12:2 is a brief hymn, summing up Christ’s work as model and perfecter of faith. Jesus voluntarily submitted himself to suffering and in turn reaped the reward of resurrection and exaltation to the place of honor at God’s right hand. His example is the model for any suffering that we might need to endure in order to arrive where he, as leader, has gone before us.

Luke 12:49-56

Today’s gospel reading again expresses the sense of imminent crisis in Jesus’ own ministry and in the life of the nation. Jesus speaks of his ministry, through which he intended to reveal and establish right relationships, as being “to set the earth on fire.” Fire is an apt image of God’s transforming presence because it leaves nothing that it touches the same as before. It both destroys an d purifies.

This time of decision about Jesus and the right relationships he advocates brings division and mutual hostility also within families. The peace Jesus has come to bring by establishing right relationships demands a complete revaluation and transformation of oneself and one’s relationships.