A Spiritual Journey
2010-07-01 by Stephen Schuette

The following is based on smaller sections of the lectionary:  Gal 6:1-5; Luke 10:16-19

It’s a perfect opportunity to address faith and politics this Sunday.  I’d want to avoid creating a “civil religion” Sunday, however.  The text can lead the way toward faithfulness.

Paul’s writing invites the reader to think.  Seems to me these seemingly disparate sentences were carefully and intentionally crafted and juxtaposed.  Be gentle in your effort to restore someone.  That’s the nature of the Spirit you’ve received.  Ok.  Next sentence:  Take care of your own temptation.  Gentleness with others must be closely related to my own imperfections and the narrow distance between where I stand and where I might fall, and, indeed, have fallen.  Third sentence:  The law of Christ (a theme in Galatians, of course) encourages us to think not just of my neighbor or myself but of the whole community and the support that we give and receive.  Hymn:  Blest Be the Tie that Binds.  Fourth sentence:  Pride and arrogance is disruptive to genuine community and the nature of the gentle Spirit referred to in sentence one.  Christian community is not hierarchical.  Fifth sentence:  if we have any sense of or basis for pride it is through our service.  The key here is the standard which we use to “test” our own work.  Measured by Christ how are we doing?  And my interest in judgment is best kept on the “log in my own eye” rather than the “speck” in my neighbor’s eye.  That, too, keeps the gentleness of community consistent.  Sixth sentence:  “For all must carry their own loads.”  MMmmm.  How does that make sense given all this community talk of bearing one another’s burdens?  Isn’t it that, ultimately, the load that we bear is to serve one another, and our motive is the service itself rather than taking advantage of this and relying upon someone else to serve us?

And all of this, I think, connects with the Gospel text, especially that indication of success and authority in vs. 17-19.  This is God’s intention for us, and authority is clear when we live out that vision.  (Authority also being a theme in Galatians as Paul seeks to answer the questions of his own authority raised by the circumcizers.)

If we were to hold this authorized/authentic view of life against our national life how would we “test”/measure it?  Seems to me, if we have any national claim on greatness it has been in an ability to learn, change, transform, and live into newness.  It’s about a dynamic ability to take a look at ourselves and strive to be better, to live into a larger vision.  Many examples come to mind:  the Civil Rights movement, Reconstruction and the idea that after every war there is peace to be made in a way that lifts those who are defeated and restores them not only economically and physically but spiritually, that envisions our role among the community of nations as one who leads through service.  We know the other side.  The earth is practically crying out, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”  It’s not ours to exploit.  We know of officers who coerced confessions under torture.  There is suffering today in areas of blight and a murder rate that is an embarrassment for a so-called advanced nation in the 21st Century.  And wars justified only on “national interest” seem uninspired, to say the least.

But the vision beckons us forward.  To renew our calling will require authentic self-examination.  But in that is the potential for spiritual renewal that can contribute to our national renewal.  As Paul suggests, there’s work to be done.  But there is also a Spirit urging.

2010-06-29 by David von Schlichten

In our gospel for this Sunday, Jesus says, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning." Many think this statement refers to Satan's fall in prehistoric times, but there is nothing in the passage that indicates such a time. Rather, given the context of the passage, it seems that Jesus is saying that Satan fell as a result of the seventy's ministry.

We could ask metaphysical questions about the logistics of Satan's fall, but to do so would miss the point, which is that Christ has given us disciples tremendous power of evil.

How could we preach that? How could we help our hearers to understand that, when they do the work of Christ, Satan falls?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Biblical Binary
2010-06-26 by David von Schlichten

The passage from Galatians 5 for this Sunday speaks of the way of the Spirit in opposition to the way of the flesh.

This statement does not mean that the way of the BODY is in opposition to the way of the Spirit. "The way of the flesh" is Bible-speak for sinfulness. The way of the body, however, can be aligned to the way of the Spirit. The body is good. God is not only a God of the spiritual but also of the corporeal. Many Christians fail to understand that truth.

Thus, for example, adultery is of the flesh, but love-making with the right person under the right conditions is the body being of the Spirit. The body is not evil. Woo-hoo! Grateful for this truth, I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

What Distracts us From Following Jesus?
2010-06-24 by David von Schlichten

Guy Kent raises this issue in one of his posts below. He is drawing from the gospel.

In the ELCA, we are arguing over whether the decision of the ELCA last summer to ordain openly gay people was following Jesus. I have several colleagues who are confident that it was not. I disagree. Allowing the ordination of openly gay people is faithful to the spirit of following Jesus, even if it goes against the letter of a half-dozen passages in Scripture.

What do we do in the Church when devoted people on both sides of an issue believe that the other side's way is a distraction from following Jesus?

Yours in the tub,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Distracted Discipleship
2010-06-21 by Guy Kent

Luke 9: 51-62

The committee sat in the room making the plans for projects that were assigned to them. Rodney sat in the room also. Rodney wasn’t on the committee, but there he sat. The pastor decided to go ahead with the meeting. No sooner had the “Amen” punctuated the opening prayer than Rodney said, “There’s a reason this church is not growing. There’s a reason people are not becoming closer to Jesus. That’s because you don’t ever give an altar call.”

Rodney was used to a more fiery approach to preaching. He wanted a service that ended with the singing of forty-seven verses of “Just As I Am” or a body at the altar, whichever came first. Rodney wanted the world roped, hogtied, and brought to Jesus. He would settle for nothing less.

A Charlie Brown cartoon once had Lucy proclaiming to Charlie Brown, “I would make a good evangelist.”

Charlie Brown responds, “And why do you think that?”

“Well, I convinced the boy who sits behind me in school that my religion is better than his religion.”

Now Charlie Brown is intrigued. “How did you do that?”

Lucy tells him, “I hit him over the head with my lunch box!”

Rodney would have loved to be engaged in Lucy’s brand of evangelism.

It’s the same thinking as that of the disciples when the Samaritans turned Jesus away: “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

It’s a form of outreach with little call for discipleship. There’s only divine coercion. The vision of that form is restricted.

The church started a free soup kitchen when the economy tanked. Rodney came by to partake. After a few months, as Rodney saw how many were coming, Rodney made a suggestion. “This thing is going pretty good; we need to figure out a way to turn a profit.”

Discipleship is foremost a focused following of Jesus. “I will follow you wherever you go,” said the one. And Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

“Follow me,” said Jesus. And another said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” And Jesus replies, “Let the dead bury the dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Is Jesus saying we need not be distracted from the goal of discipleship?

As a boy I got to occasionally plow a few acres of an uncle’s farm. Sitting up on that tractor gave me a sense of power. Sometimes, I couldn’t resist the temptation to look back and see the furrows strung out behind me. When I did I inevitably moved off course and destroyed the symmetry of the plowed field.

“Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Maybe the simplest definition is discipleship is never turning away from the way and practices of Jesus.

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