Pentecost 22, Year C, Nov. 10, 2019

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Title:Pentecost 22, Year C, Nov. 10, 2019

 Pentecost 22, Year C, Nov. 10, 2019 (full size gallery)

The Way of Beauty Retreat was yesterday in the Parish House. 16 ladies participated drawing a group from St. Mary’s in Colonial Beach. The review from several participants was very positive. Here’s the story.

Carey taught Christian Ed at 10am Using the Parable of the Workers from Matthew 20 she had us interpret the scripture and then shared an entirely different interpretation from Burundi. We may focus on the inequality of the work situation that those who worked only one hour received the same wages and those who worked all day. Burundi would focus on the landowner (God) going out continuously through the day looking for workers and thus that at are included in the Kingdom of God, no matter your participating.

We have a smaller congregation of 30. We welcomed two visitors from Christ Episcopal as well as former priest at St. Mary’s Tom Hughes and Alice Nuchols. It was mostly sunny with milder fall temperatures.

During the service we recognized about 10 veterans, mostly from the Navy and Army as tomorrow, Nov. 11 is Veterans day. Catherine offered a prayer for their service.

The sermon focused on Job and Luke readings.

“Ultimately, Job knows that God is Job’s redeemer. God is the One who will take up Job’s case and rescue him. Not even death can prevent God’s redemption of Job. Job had such great faith in the redemptive love of God.

“We Christians believe that Jesus is our Redeemer. We Western Christians have understood that Jesus redeemed us by dying on the cross for our sins, a sacrifice offered for us sinners.

“And Jesus is our Redeemer, restoring us to God, not just through his death and resurrection, but also through his birth and life on this earth. This additional way of understanding redemption comes from Celtic spirituality, and John Philip Newell, whose school I attended week before last, told us about the work of the French theologian, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin as an illustration of the presence of Jesus among us as redemptive.

“Teilhard says that Jesus redeems us in his coming to live and die as one of us, by reminding us and revealing to us all over again the union of heaven and earth, that God is with us, here and now.

“We human beings have sold off the earth and God’s creation for our own gain, convincing ourselves that the world is only a possession that is ours to dispose of, but Jesus reveals to us, through his presence with us, the transparence of God in the universe, the shining of God in and through every life form, and we can see this shining in and through the eyes of every creature.

“So Jesus redeems creation and restores it back to God and to us and restores us back into creation and into God through his presence among us.”

Today’s readings affirm the reality of eternal, resurrected life. Job , in his attempt to find meaning in his suffering, affirms his confidence in a God who will, in a life after this one, make all things clear. Paul takes comfort and courage in the knowledge that God guards us always against the evil one. Jesus corrects the Sadducees and affirms the teaching of life after death.

First Reading: Job 19:23-27a

The author of Job tackles the problem of how a just God can permit human suffering. Though the author acknowledges the existence of a persecuting spiritual enemy (1:6–2:7), his conclusion shuns the explanation of suffering in order to achieve a greater goal: the revelation of the mystery of faith in the midst of suffering.

Today’s reading comes from Job’s reply to the friends who attempt to comfort him by slandering his righteousness. Job perceives that he is totally isolated from both humans and God. Yet he is sure that God, his redeemer or vindicator, will defend him. This “redeemer” was a family-member, the next-of-kin or heir, who was obligated to avenge or redeem his kinsmen or family property whenever necessary. The term was used also of God as redeemer from slavery, as rescuer from death and as defender of the orphan.

Though the belief in a resurrection had not yet fully developed, here Job’s vision plunges ahead in a conviction that after his death he will understand. 

Psalm 17:1-9

This psalm expresses David’s protests of innocence (Psalms 7, 26, 35) in the face of unjust accusations. Apparently some serious legal cases were taken before the priests for settlement (Deuteronomy 17:8-11). The accused may have spent the night in the temple (v. 3) and received an oracle in the morning (v. 15). This psalm is relatively general and thus could be used appropriately by many defendants.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13–17

Paul first gives thanks for God’s choosing of believers. He then exhorts his readers to steadfastness. He prays for their continued encouragement and asks them to pray for continued success and protection for him.

Paul returns to his prayer, directing hearts “to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (v. 5). This may be understood grammatically either as “to [your] love toward God and to [your] patient expectation of Christ” or as “to God’s love [for you] and Christ’s patient endurance” (as example).

Luke 20:27-38

The Sadducees accepted as binding only the written law or Torah (the first five books of the Bible) and thus rejected doctrines not taught therein (the resurrection, angels, demons), opposing the Pharisees, who also accepted the oral torah (the traditional teachings of the rabbis).

The law concerning levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10), on which the Sadducees base their test case, was a means to ensure the continuation of the family name. They attempted to show that belief in the resurrection as a continuation of this life leads to an absurd conclusion.

Jesus declares that the resurrection life is quite another matter. In the resurrection, the faithful attain the status of the angels as children of God. Marriage as a means of procreation is no longer necessary; personal relationships are based upon relationship to God.

Jesus then turns to the Sadducees’ own accepted text, referring to Exodus 3:6. God’s desire to commune with individuals cannot be thwarted by death, for “he is God not of the dead, but of the living” (v. 38). The very nature of God indicates that our relationship to God is not ended by death. 

The Sadducees who present Jesus with a religious problem in today’s gospel seem as relevant to the struggles of our age as the theologians who once argued over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. We’re tempted to turn from the readings, despairing that they could offer any help as we confront the challenges of yet another week.

But a better response might be in the direction Jesus takes, veering from the obscure question into areas that are more life-giving. He recognizes that the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection are trying to trap him with a contrived dilemma into following their belief. His answer is a buoyant reassurance to us all: God is the God of the living, God is the God of fallible human beings; God takes pleasure in vibrant human company. God does not haunt the tombs nor delight in morbid gravity; God is to be found with those who laugh and eat and make mistakes and work and sleep. (To check on that, simply review the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.) Just as the long-dead patriarchs still live according to God, so do we: Barbara and Brendon, Janelle and Jerry. (Fill in your own name.)

Look around at an ordinary Sunday  service. There the word is translated into flesh, the gritty particularity of actual human lives: people desperate to find jobs, parents regretting the angry words hurled at their children in a futile effort to get to church on time, young people squandering their opportunities for education, workers uncomfortable with the sneaky ways they have cheated their bosses, employers guilty of oppressing employees. “I shouldn’t have altered that tax return,” one thinks uncomfortably. “I should have been kinder to Aunt Ethel,” another chides herself.

It’s a motley collection, indeed, this church-going bunch. Has God chosen the wrong ones? Perhaps God sees more broadly: that a person is more than his or her mistakes. A merciful God chooses to be with them, attending to their cries, giving ear to their prayers.