Proper 19A: Beginning Again

 

Parting of the Red Sea, Chagall
Parting of the Red Sea, Chagall

OLD TESTAMENT: Exodus 14: 19-31

http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=276696318

(OK, first of all, clear all images of Charlton Heston out of your mind.) Keep in mind that main themes of the Book of Exodus—liberation, law, covenant, and presence. Chapter 14 comes near to the end of the narrative of liberation. Once again we have an angel in the story, which has not happened since the burning bush. The cloud is both before and behind Israel as a sort of “protective screen.” The cloud takes the place of the fire of the bush, providing light as well as covering. Then, just as the Lord had commanded, Moses drives back the waters and creates a dry path for the escaping Israelites. Just as the waters were parted in the midst of Creation, they are parted here in this newness of recreation. In this moment, the Israelites are being liberated. And on top of that, the Egyptians are also forced to know that which even the Israelites had in some way doubted before. As Egypt comes to this confession, God is indeed acknowledged as the sovereign one. Then, also as God commanded, Moses unleashes the waters and chaos returns. They Egyptians are helpless against it.

According to this narrative, Yahweh has broken the power of Egypt and the power of slavery. The story is told in order to summon Israel to faith, even in the face of one’s enemies.   And faith points to liberation and transformation. Jewish interpreters understand that Moses had asked for a three-day pilgrimage for the people and Pharaoh obliged. It wasn’t until they didn’t return at the end of the three days that the Egyptians began pursuing them. Perhaps even these people , enslaved for centuries, had a hard time imagining total freedom. Perhaps they needed to imagine it in what could be characterized as a tiny sound byte.

The truth is that this is a hard Scripture to stomach on many. We struggle with the image of one’s own liberation and freedom coming at the expense of others. Maybe that’s part of the point. Darkness is everywhere in this world. And so is beauty. There is an almost poetic juxtaposition of the two at every turn of our lives. And because of that, sometimes our salvation comes in the midst of another’s exile; and often our own exile comes in the midst of another’s salvation. I mean, how many times have you heard someone proclaim praise that our area was “spared” a hurricane? And yet, the hurricane grounded itself somewhere. The fire burned down some path. The waters closed over someone. There was someone that was not spared. God is not only present with those on the side of salvation. God is also present in the darkness. Don’t you think God was there in that water with the Egyptians just as God was there in those crumbling towers? We do not have to be “good” or “right” or even “spiritual”. God is always there. But true freedom, true liberation only comes with that realization.

So, as we remember a devastation much closer to home this coming week, it is good for all of us to remember what happened after the well-known parting of the sea: the waters returned to normal, crashing into each other as the Israelites realized that the chaos of life is always there. But just as the waters come together, we find ourselves standing on the other shore—transformed, liberated, free to move to a new place, to open up a world to the miracle of infinite possibility.

 

A few days ago I came across a note from a friend, an Episcopalian priest who had been run out of his parish by its leaders, the punishment voted upon him as a result of having faithfully done his job. “Your sermons are too political. We don’t want to hear what’s wrong with the world. And we don’t want to hear what’s wrong with us. Just tell us God loves us and leave it at that,” they told him. When he couldn’t leave it at that – anymore than Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. or Jesus could have before him, they insisted he resign. And his bishop supported their decision.

 

Being faithful to the gospel, having faith in himself meant heading for the Red Sea, not knowing what would happen next. Standing firm for the man he was and for the God who had called him – between the devil and the deep blue sea.

 

There comes a time for all of us when we must find out whether we have what it takes. That moment when we break free of the oppressive circumstances that have held us captive for so long and stand before an uncertain future. When matching the enemy blow for blow is not an option. When no one can see a way for us to the other side. When we must simply reach down within ourselves and find that source of fearlessness, dignity and integrity. The place that literally in-spires us to be more than we know.

 

It is then that a path opens before us in recognition of that which we were prepared to believe, a way out of what seemed an impossible dilemma into that new day that God alone can provide.  (Excerpt from “Keeping the Faith in Babylon”, by Barry J. Robinson, available at http://www.spirit-net.ca/sermons/a-or24-keeping.php, accessed 8 September, 2011.)

  1. What is your response to this passage?
  2. How difficult is it for us to imagine “total transformation”? What, for us, does that entail?
  3. From what “exile” is it hard for us to leave? 

 

NEW TESTAMENT: Romans 14: 1-12

To read the Lectionary Epistle passage, click here

This passage continues with the theme of God’s call to worship, holiness, and unity. The opening implies that Paul has become aware of disputes and dissensions within the community. He begins with the issue that probably lay at the heart of it all—the argument over whether or not the rules of Torah, the dietary laws, should be set aside. For Paul, these laws were probably no longer necessary. But he still warned against judging those who adhered to the laws. Rather, the Lord embraces all.

The next section has to do with the observance of special days, time-honored holy days. There seems to be an underlying warning against observing special days for the wrong reasons, something Paul would have attributed to paganism. He resolves that if anything is done to glorify God, it is rightly done. That is what living as a Christian means—to do everything that you do to honor and glorify God. The world will not know us by our perfect harmony; the world will know us by our love.

Paul is writing to people who despised each other, who judged each other based on their religious beliefs. They argued about holy days; they argued about proper food; they argued about whose belief was the “right” one. Can you imagine? But also keep in mind that, compared to us today, they were in the minority. Christians could lose jobs, become estranged from their families, and be vilified by the community. So fear was rampant. You know, fear does things to people. It’s hard to be the unified Body of Christ when you don’t trust each other. It’s hard to be the unified Body of Christ when rules and right beliefs become more important than our neighbors. It’s hard to be the unified Body of Christ when we can’t talk to each other or be with each other. In a sermon entitled “From Commandments to Commitments”, Rev. Ignacio Castuera tells this story:

 

A Rabbi and a Roman Catholic Priest were sitting next to each other at an Inter-faith event. When dinner was served someone thoughtlessly had placed a slab of ham in the Rabbi’s plate. The Rabbi did not protest but simply proceeded to eat other things his faith and physician permitted. The Roman Catholic padre leaned over in the direction of the Rabbi and said. “Rabbi Cohen, you and I know that the dietary laws from the Old Testament were developed at a time when pork meat was indeed dangerous due to lack of refrigeration and low heat in cooking. Of course trychinosis was rampant and your ancestors in the faith were right in prohibiting eating pork in order to save the lives of many Israelites. Those days are gone, pork is safe and there is no reason to cling to outmoded ancient practices. When will you eat your first mouthful of ham, Rabbi Cohen?” The Rabbi paused briefly and then responded, “at your wedding, Father Maguire, at your wedding” (From “From Commandments to Commitments”, by Rev. Ignacio Castuera, available at http://day1.org/717-from_commandments_to_commitments, accessed 7 September, 2011.)

 

Essentially, Paul is saying, “Fine, do what you want to do; Live out your faith in whatever way is best for you; Live by whatever rules you want to live by. Just remember that those are not your faith; they are window dressing, ways that we order our own understanding of who God is. They are fine for you and we applaud your commitment. But faith is about relationships. Faith is about being the Body of Christ.” No where in this passage does Paul proclaim a “right” or orthodox theology by which we should live. He just tells us to get out of ourselves and back to God. He just tells us to get back to being the Body of Christ.

 

  1. What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  2. What does it mean for you to “be the Body of Christ”?
  3. To what issues in today’s religious world could this speak?
  4. How do you hear this in light of our 09/11 remembrance of this week? 

 

GOSPEL: Matthew 18: 21-35

To read the Lectionary Gospel passage, click here

This passage continues the broad section of the writer Matthew’s version of the Gospel that has to do with life together as a new community. First the writer reflected on the consideration of those who are “young in the faith”, then church discipline, and, now, the idea of forgiveness and grace. At the beginning, Peter’s proposal to forgive seven times sounds pretty generous, especially since there is not even a mention of repentance by the other party. But Jesus goes far beyond that. The Greek number hepta can be understood as “seventy times seven” or four hundred ninety times. The difference between the two proposals is not merely mathematical; it goes beyond that. It is a matter of grace, of mercy, of forgiveness. Whoever counts has not really forgiven at all. The forgiveness called for here goes beyond all calculation. Jesus then continues with a parable.

Here, the “servant” is not a household slave, but a subordinate official, perhaps a sort of supervisor or foreman. The debt, here, was incurred through mismanagement of the king’s resources, not by personal expenditures. The figure used is not a realistic one. A talent is the largest monetary unit, approximately equal to the wages of a laborer for fifteen years. The term for “ten thousand” is the largest possible number. We could translate it as “myriad”, something that can’t even be counted or calculated. The combination of the two (ten thousand talents) is the largest figure that can be given. The amount is beyond all calculation. The debt, then, is essentially unpayable. The servant’s situation is hopeless. He asks for mercy and beyond all expectation, the king shows him compassion.

The debt of the fellow servant, though, is microscopic. If you want to take it literally, a hundred denarii is about 1/600,000th of the first servant’s debt. The point, though, is that there is an infinite contrast. It’s still about 100 days labor and the servant cannot pay it. But the servant who had received such infinite compassion chose not to show even a tiny fraction of the same.

So the king takes back the forgiveness and condemns him to torment. The point is that in order to receive full forgiveness, one must be willing to forgive; otherwise it is invalidated. You could say that if one does not forgive, they have never really received forgiveness in the first place.

So what is the deal with all this math? It is because math depicts wholeness. In a book that he wrote about mathematical archetypes found throughout nature, art, and science, Michael Schneider contends that mathematics can be divided into three levels or approaches.

The first he calls “secular” mathematics. It is the math that is taught in school, that even within our limited scope, can be proved as true. It includes 2+2, calculating the amount of your change from a purchase, or telling time. This is the math approach that Peter was proposing: just count them—seven times.

The second approach is what Schneider calls “symbolic” mathematics. It is the understanding that numbers and shapes relate to each other in harmonious patterns. It is those patterns that make up all that is life.

The final level, as Schneider lays it out, he calls “sacred mathematics”. It is those things that move us beyond our own consciousness, beyond what is expected, beyond what we have been able to prove, or plan, or lay out as an accepted expectation. This is what Jesus was using. You see, seven is one of the most venerated numbers. In sacred understandings, seven is used to comprise completeness, a whole, a reconciliation. Think of the seventh day of Sabbath or the seventh year of Jubilee. And then on top of that, the multiplier of ten represents a new beginning, a new being beyond all limits. Seventy-seven times? It is a way of completing and beginning again. But you have to let it go to do that.

…What is forgiveness without reunion, or at least the possibility of reunion? And yet there are consequences to our actions. I was fascinated to speak with a Hindu colleague of mine about the concept of karma in her faith. “Every human choice has moral fallout,” she explained. “If you harm me, then there will be consequences for you as well as for me. You may have a change of heart later and ask me to forgive you, but even if I forgive you from the bottom of my heart, I cannot change your karma. You made a choice, which has had its effect. Eventually, you, too, will experience its full effect.” 

This is a scary idea for some Christians who like to think of forgiveness as a giant eraser on the blackboard of life. But there is biblical precedent for the lasting effect of sins that have been forgiven. God forgave David for his murderous affair with Bathsheba, but their firstborn child still died. Jesus came to forgive the sins of the whole world, but according to this parable in Matthew 25, he will come again to separate the sheep from the goats.

 Forgiveness is a starting place, not a stopping place. It is God’s gift to those who wish to begin again, but where we go with it is up to us. (Barbara Brown Taylor, Speaking of Sin, p. 89-90)

  1. What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  2. What impact on your understanding of forgiveness does this make?
  3. How do you reflect on this passage in light of our 09/11 remembrance? 

 

Some Quotes for Further Reflection:

 

Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

 

In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t. (Blaise Pascal)

 

There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning. (Louis L’Amour)

 

 

Closing

We prattle about your sovereignty; all about all things working together for good, all about your watchful care and your severe mercies.

 

And then we are drawn up short; by terror that strikes us, in our privilege, as insane; by violence that shatters our illusions of well-being; by death that reminds us of our at-risk mortality; by smoke and fire that have the recurring smell of ovens.

 

We are bewildered, undone, frightened, and then intrude the cadences of these old poets: the cadences of fidelity and righteousness; the sounds of justice and judgment; the images of Sodom and Gomorrah; the imperatives of widows and orphans.

 

Even on such a day we are not minded to yield on your sovereignty. We are, we confess, sobered, put off, placed in dread, that you are lord as well as friend, that you are hidden as well as visible, that you are silence as well as reassuring.

 

You are our God. That is enough for us…but just barely.

 

We pray in the name of the wounded flesh of Jesus. Amen.

 

(“Even On Such A Day”, by Walter Brueggemann, written September 11, 2001, in Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth, p. 37)

Proper 8A: Choosing God

 

Abraham and Isaac, Rembrandt, 1634
Abraham and Isaac, Rembrandt, 1634

OLD TESTAMENT:  Genesis 22: 1-14

To read the Old Testament Lectionary passage, click here

Remember that Genesis is a book about not only the beginning of the world but also the beginnings of God’s interaction with that world.  It is a patchwork of traditions that is begin retold in light of a specific context and how the image of God is seen through that context.

This story is one of the best-known and one of the hardest to understand.  In fact, taken at face value, it is disconcerting, disenchanting, and downright shocking.  But we need to understand the context from which this story probably came.  While it was probably from a pre-Israelite setting, suggesting that it originated from within the circle and intimacy of a family, the story was handed down for generations upon generations before it was even written down. But think about those who lived during the time of the exile hearing this story.  What they heard in this story was a God who put them to the test, called them forth from their continuing faith, and delivered them with renewed promises.  What they saw was their own life and, in it, a God who provides.  Because, you see, during the exile, it would have been very easy to assume that God was no longer available.  They had lost everything that they knew.  Where was God?  But this story says, “here is God!…the God of new possibilities and renewed life.”  From that standpoint, it is an important story in that tradition.

The Hebrew term for it is Aqedah, “the binding”.  The Arabic term for it is Dhabih.  Arabic?  You see, this story is also in the writings of Islam.  But in that case, the story is often told of the Binding of Ishmael, Abraham’s other son, rather than Isaac.  So, the whole point is that it is a story set in the context of the whole story of Abraham.  And, it is apparently important enough to be told in multiple traditions.

The narrator states that God “tested” Abraham.  If Abraham were to carry out God’s instructions to sacrifice his son, then the promises that God gave would be nullified.  The heir upon whom the future depended would be gone.  Abraham obeyed—binding the boy and raising the knife.  And just at the right moment, God stops him.  God provides.

Now, we need to realize that this is not merely a story of filicide or, even worse, a God gone wrong.  Sacrifices were a normal part of that society.  In fact, human sacrifices of the firstborn were not only acceptable, but an honored tradition.  So, for its first hearers, this story makes all the sense in the world.  And then, God steps in and stops it—against all odds, against all culture, against the norm. But does just looking at this as evidence that God provides sort of oversimplify it?  I mean, it appears to be the point.  After all, Abraham makes this pretty explicit at the end by naming the place of this encounter “The Lord will provide.”   But is that the only point?

Throughout the Scriptures, there is a rhythm of calling, responding, and testing. Why the test?  There are two words for test in Hebrew.  One denotes testing to see whether or not standards are being maintained, much like our tests in schools.  The other is used for experimenting–pushing an entity beyond its present limits to see how much it can bear. We might compare this to a chemical test where you combine elements into something else.  A person who undergoes a test like this might succeed or fail.  That’s not really the point.  But one thing is certain—he or she emerges changed, either shattered or risen to new heights.  Either way, one will not be the same as before.  This is the word for testing that is used in this Scripture.  Testing, here, has nothing to do with right or wrong.  It has to do with Lech- lecha, the Hebrew for “to go”, “to move”, as in to a different place in one’s life. The test, you see, had little to do with whether or not Abraham would sacrifice Isaac, but, rather, whether or not he had moved to the point where he could truly trust God.

I don’t think God deliberately creates difficult circumstances in our lives.  And God has never implied that we have to earn God’s love or get it right for it to happen.  Contrary to the way many interpret this story, God does not call us to blind obedience.  God simply calls us to grow into who we are called to be.

But I think many of us spend our lives as if we’re preparing for a test.  We try very hard to learn right from wrong, to know the right answers, to prove that we’re right, and to do the correct things.  And we miss the opportunities God gives us for lech-lecha, to move beyond where we are into the place we are meant to be.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow claims that the best contemporary midrash to the Aqedah comes from Esther Ticktin.  She says that the “strongest imperatives of Torah are to rear children and to break idols.  What happens when we turn our children into idols?  We must break our idolization of them—kill the image of of them we have erected…This is what God asked of Abraham:  Lift him up to me:  But Abraham had so totally made Isaac into his idol that he couldn’t fathom how to do it without killing him.  The lifted knife was the breaking of the idol.”  That was all God wanted—for Abraham to break the cast of any idols that he might have set between himself and God.  God wanted Abraham to realize once and for all his own faith to trust in what God was doing in his life.  The question is, then, do each of us have enough faith in ourselves to have that level of faith in God? (From “Is This Going to Be on the Test”, sermon by S. Williams, 06/29/2008)   

  • What meaning does this passage provide for you?
  • What do you think this says about Abraham? Does Abraham obey because he is told to do so or because he trusts God? What is the difference?
  • What do you think this says about Isaac?
  • What does this say about God?
  • What do you think about the whole concept of the “test”? 

 

NEW TESTAMENT: Romans 6: 12-23

To read the Lectionary Epistle passage, click here

The first couple of verses provide a bridge from the previous verses to what follows. It sounds like a logic argument:  IF the reign of sin has been broken in Christ, and IF the Christian truly live in Christ, THEN sin has no business continuing to rule.  In other words, if one is in Christ, sin is not an issue.

Remember that the emphasis of Romans has much to do with God’s righteousness.  Here, God’s righteousness is revealed apart from the law.  It is instead justified by faith.  Beginning in verse 15, Paul lays out a choice between two obediences, between two loyalties—a slave to Christ or a slave to the world.  The difference is in the slavemasters—one perpetuates slavery, one initiates freedom.  The Greek word for “slave” is doulos.  It can mean “slave”; it can also mean “servant”, perhaps the distinction between enslavement and service.

The point is that we have changed masters—from sin to obedience to God.  Obedience here is not, as we often assume, merely following rules.  God is much more nuanced than that, I supposed!  Obedience is not following rules; it is living within God’s will, God’s vision of what we are created to be.  Obedience is the freedom to become who you are.  This is true liberation.  This is transformation.

And yet, we still allow ourselves to become enslaved—to things, to security, to nice houses and nice cars, to too many clothes and too many pairs of shoes (Really, can you ever have too many shoes?  No, I’m [sort of] just kidding!!!)  The point is, we have sacrificed the freedom that God gives us not to just what we want, not to fall into step with everyone else, but to truly listen and follow God’s will for our lives.

 

  • What meaning does this passage provide for you?
  • What does “freedom” mean for you in this passage? (Think about this concept of “freedom” as it relates to the Genesis passage. What “freedom” did Abraham have? Or, for that matter, Isaac? Or, for that matter, God?
  • How does the whole idea of “competing slaveries” set for you?
  • How does this idea of transformation speak to the idea that “God accepts us as we are”?

 

 

GOSPEL:  Matthew 10: 37-42

To read the Lectionary Gospel passage, click here

This is a conclusion of a speech that authorizes and empowers the disciples as representatives of Christ.  There is an implicit claim that Christ represents God and this passage, then, deals not with specific “12” disciples, but with the nature of discipleship. The whole idea of persecution is inherently unfamiliar to us in our society.  After all, for good or bad, many see us as a “Christian nation”.  (I use the term loosely.)  But in this context, they WERE, on some level, being persecuted for their beliefs.

Keep in mind that in the writer of Matthew’s Gospel’s theology, God is the faithful creator and redeemer of all of Creation.  Creation and eschatology are not alternatives, but complement the God who embraces all.  These rules, which for us seem rigorous and unforgiving, were set out to distinguish true missioners from what we would call “entrepreneurs”, who were set out to make money for their preaching and their good works.  It is a matter of discerning true disciples from the false prophets of the day.  For us, it’s a matter of living as true disciples, not holding anything back, and only giving God the time and the part of ourselves that we can spare.

I don’t think Jesus was “anti-family”, so to speak.  I think I would assume that loving and caring for our relatives and having a good relationship with them was the expectation.  But, it’s back to the Genesis passage.  Was God trying to make Abraham realize that even those relationships do not come “before God”?  The truth is that they are God’s wonderful gift to us and part of our relationship with God.  They are part of who we are called to be—not to idolize or put ahead of who we are before God but to take it into us and figure out what it is about that person or persons that God is using for our lives.

Next week my 22-year-old son, Matthew, and I are going on a mission trip to Casa Esperanza, a children’s dental clinic and medical center in Puerto Lempira on the Mosquito Coast of eastern Honduras. Getting there involves three plane flights, a cab ride, and a bus trip. Reading through the “Instructions for Volunteers,” handout, I learned about all kinds of details Jesus doesn’t go into in his “Instructions for Volunteers” in Matthew 10:5-15.  Jesus doesn’t go into airport taxes, the expected tips for people who handle your luggage, safety, appropriate attire, passports (your passport can’t expire less than six months after you plan to leave Honduras), where and how to exchange money, immunizations, luggage weight limits, malaria pills, insurance, and liability forms. Jesus’ “Instructions for Volunteers” simply says “Go to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. Proclaim the good news that the kingdom of heaven has come near. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.”  He just tells the Twelve where to go and what to do.

My Honduran mission trip handout also includes a “what to pack for Honduras” list. It includes all kinds of items Jesus doesn’t mention in his packing list in Matthew 10:9-10: ear plugs, hat, motion sickness pills, flash light, small battery operated fan, rain poncho, water bottle, camera, water shoes, sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above, mosquito repellent, antiseptic hand wipes, an extra pair of shoes in case one gets muddy, snack food, and several other items I won’t bore you with. But if you were going you’d want to know about them.

I am very grateful for the detailed “what to pack” list for Honduras. But I can’t help but compare it to Jesus’ “what not to pack” list in Matthew 10:9-10. No money. No bag for the journey, no extra tunic or pair of sandals, not even a staff.

I don’t know that I would want to go on a mission trip whose team leader was Jesus. I picture Jesus as the airline employee who, just as you are dragging your roller board onto the plane stops you and says, “I’m sorry you’re going to have to check that.” But what he really means is, “You’ll never see this roller board again. Now get on the plane.” Without the preventive medications and small comforts of daily life, I am afraid a Jesus-led mission team would all come back home sunburned, dehydrated, and with blisters on our feet.

There is one more sheet in my mission trip handout packet. It’s called the “Mission Trip Participant Pledge.”

To go on the trip I need to agree to do the following:

I promise to . . .

  • Lift up Jesus Christ with my thoughts, words, and actions.
  • Maintain a servant attitude toward the people our team serve and toward team members.
  • Refrain from negativism and complaining. Travel and ministry in Honduras may present unexpected and even undesired circumstances. Your cooperation and flexibility will make the challenges less stressful.
  • Remember that I am a servant of Jesus Christ called to be in ministry. I will serve as best I can so that both the spiritual purpose and the task of the mission will be accomplished.

 

At the bottom of the “Mission Trip Participant Pledge” is a place for me to sign and date the document.

Wouldn’t those four promises be good to make every day of discipleship wherever in the world we are? Because even armed with a battery-operated fan, a bag of Planters salted peanuts, and some antiseptic hand wipes, we will experience “unexpected and even undesired circumstances” in our journey with Jesus. When we do, can we count on others to welcome and receive us? Can they count on us to welcome and receive them?

I saw an interview with actor Michael Douglas recently on Oprah. He spoke of his relationship with his father, Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas, and told the following story.

Dad called me the other night. He said, “Michael, I was watching myself in an old movie earlier tonight and I didn’t remember making it.”  “Well, Dad, you made 75 movies and you are 94. Don’t be so rough on yourself.” “No, Michael, you didn’t let me finish. I realized halfway through that I was watching one of your movies.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if certain aspects of our lives and ways of relating to others were all but indistinguishable from Jesus? If they reminded others of Jesus, just a little bit? We seek, every day, in every place, on this mission trip of life, to be emissaries of Jesus: representatives of Jesus who welcome others as if they were Jesus and who relate to others in the spirit of Jesus?

Who is the representative of Jesus? New Testament scholar Craig Keener, reflecting on 10:39-39 in relation to 10:40-42, concludes that “The one who relinquishes control of his or her own life (10:38-39) becomes a representative of Jesus.” (Keener, 211) Easier said than done, but we do so with confidence in our leader and the goal that, when we encounter others on our trip, we’ll welcome the Christ in them and they’ll welcome the Christ they see in us.

But first we have to get off the website and get on the plane. We have to get off the shore and into the boat. (From “Mission Trip Guidelines from Jesus”, by Alyce McKenzie, available at http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Mission-Trip-Guidelines-from-Jesus-Alyce-McKenzie-06-20-2011, accessed 22 June 2011).

 

  • What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  • How do you view this considering that fact that their being persecuted for their beliefs was a normal occurrence.
  • What does this say about the idea of “true missioners” as opposed to “entrepreneurs” of our faith?
  • What images of righteousness and following the will of God does this bring about for you?

 

Some Quotes for Further Reflection:

The most important thing in this world is not where we stand but in what direction we move. (Johann von Goethe, 1749-1832) 

Humanly speaking, we could interpret the Sermon on the Mount in a thousand different ways.  Jesus knows only one possibility:  simple surrender and obedience.  He does not want it to be discussed as an ideal; he really means us to get on with it.  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1906-1945) 

Whatever is honored will be cultivated.  (Plato, 424-348, BCE)

 

Closing

 

That there is a planet circling the sun, which we call earth, our first, wonderful home.

Give thanks to the Lord who is good, whose mercies last forever.

 

That the earth is full of loving gifts, beautiful scenes, and complex creatures.

Give thanks to the Lord who is good, whose mercies last forever.

 

That from earliest days God spoke to people and called them into faith and service.

Give thanks to the Lord who is good, whose mercies last forever.

 

That God’s people are called to be friends of the earth and stewards of its bounty.

Give thanks to the Lord who is good, whose mercies last forever.

 

That God came uniquely to us in Christ Jesus, bearing our sins and healing our diseases.

Give thanks to the Lord who is good, whose mercies last forever.

 

That we belong to a community called the church, where Christ lives on in love.

Give thanks to the Lord who is good, whose mercies last forever.

 

That no evil can finally win out against God, and that complete reconciliation is assured.

Give thanks to the Lord who is good, whose mercies last forever.

 

That through Christ’s ministry even death has lost its sting and the grave its victory.

Give thanks to the Lord who is good, whose mercies last forever.

 

That we are surrounded by a crowd of heavenly friends, whose lives are hid with Christ.

Give thanks to the Lord who is good, whose mercies last forever. 

 

(Bruce Prewer, Uniting Church in Australia, available at http://www.bruceprewer.com/DocA/42Sun13.htm, accessed 22 June, 2011)