On Tuesday morning the pastors of Lutheran Saints in Ministry gather in Fairborn Ohio to discuss the texts for Sunday.

These are the contributions that are brought to the table.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Text for November 30, the 1st Sunday in Advent, 2014

First Reading: Isaiah 64:1–9
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence — 
  2as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil — 
to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
  3When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
  4From ages past no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him.
  5You meet those who gladly do right,
those who remember you in your ways.
But you were angry, and we sinned;
because you hid yourself we transgressed. 
  6We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
  7There is no one who calls on your name,
or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.
  8Yet, O LORD, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
  9Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD,
and do not remember iniquity forever.
Now consider, we are all your people.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3–9

3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus,  5for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind —  6just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you —  7so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.  8He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  9God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Gospel: Mark 13:24–37

24But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
  25and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
  26Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory.  27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
28From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.  29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.  30Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.  31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
32But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.  34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.  35Therefore, keep awake — for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn,  36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.  37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."

Mark 13, the Greek text for Advent 1

Mark 13:24-37

v24 αλλα εν εκειναις ταις ημεραις But in those days…” θλιψιν ”tribulation
σκοτισθησεται "it shall be darkened” - 3rd person singular passive tense, a current reality that impacts the future, so likely a reference to the darkening of the skies during the destruction of Jerusalem.

v25 πιπτοντες fallingσαλευθησονται ”[the heaven] shall be shaken (passive) as above, a reference to the destruction of the temple.  God is NOT in his heaven and all is NOT right with the world!

v26 οψονται They shall see…” in the destruction there will be seen a glimpse of the coming glory of God, perhaps a reference back to Ezekiel, witnessing the ‘shekihah’ of God leaving the temple in advance of the Babylonian destruction.

v27 τοτε αποστελει τους αγγελους and then He shall send the angels” a Semiticism.

v29 ιδητε ταυτα Seeing this” – beholding, witnessing… γινομενα γινωσκετε you will know and in that knowledge” – an idiom, the knowledge will be that which ‘opens your eyes’. Perhaps a reference back to Eden; that in that in eating they ‘knew” the difference between good and evil?

v30 αμην λεγω υμιν a semeticsm, “honestly”

v32 Here Jesus makes the point that no one, , not even he, knows εκεινης, "that" particular day or hour. Given the context, "that" most likely refers to the destruction of Jerusalem temple which was the focus of the disciples' question in v4 ("know that it is near", v29).
δε begins a collection of independent sayings connected with a particle or conjunction (and so untranslated)..
περι (gen.) about, concerning. ημερας εκεινης "that day" - an Old Testament term often used for the day of divine judgment. Here it refers to the destruction of Jerusalem and by implication the Parousia. The addition of "hour" emphasizes the New Testament theme of its unexpected coming.
οιδεν (οιδα) perf. "knows" - the clarity of "no one knows" puts an end to speculation, (although many still enjoy this fruitless pastime). 
ο υιος "the Son" - the only time the shortened title "the Son" is used in Mark..
ει μη "but [only the Father]"

v33 In this next saying Jesus makes the point that ignorance of the date of the Parousia is no excuse for being unprepared, but a reason (γαρ) for vigilance.
βλεπετε (βλεπω) pres. imp. "beware" – literally "keep your eyes open”.
αγρυπνειτε (αγρυπνεω) pres. imp. "be alert" as opposed to not! The question is in what sense? Vigilantly tending our faith is the probable answer.
γαρ "for" - a causal clause explaining the why.
ποτε εστιν (ειμι) "when [that time] will come" – i.e. we don't know the timetable.

v34 A short pericope added to develop the exhortation to watchfulness, v34-36 consists of a parable, v34, an explanation, v35, an application and v36 – so this may have come from a different sources, best read as a whole. The point is that the future belongs to God.
ως "it is like" – a comparative serving to introduce a parable. 
ανθρωπος (ος) "a man" - the subject of a rather complex sentence, which makes a simple point.
αφεις (αφιημι) aor. part. "going away" – literally “to abandon or give up” often translated in the NT as “forgive”. He commissions his slaves to look after his affairs; "having left “abandoned” his property and given its management to his servants...”
την εξουσιαν (α) "[each with his assigned task]" - [to each one] the authority [of his work]. 
ενετειλατο (εντελλομαι) aor. "commands, orders”.
τω θυρωρω (ος) "the door-keeper” a dative of direct object after the verb - a particular slave with a special job. This person guarded the entrance of the courtyard to a wealthy home or combined homes.
ινα + subj. "so to [keep watch]" - an object clause expressing what the "man" commands "the one at the door" to do.

v35 ουν "therefore" γρηγορειτε pres. imp. act. "keep watch" like a guard we must keep watch for the coming of a thief or the return of the master. 
της οικιας (α) gen. "[the owner] of the house" - 
η "whether" - Used 4 times so "either .... or .... or ..... or ....." identifying the four Roman watches of the night.

v36 ελθων (ερξομαι) aor. act. part. "having come” - adverbial, temporal.
εξαιφνης adv. "suddenly".
μη .... ευρη (ευρισκω) aor. sub. act. "do not be discovered" a subjunctive of prohibition expressing a doubtful assertion, usually expressed by ινα μη, "lest".
καθευδοντας (καθευδω) he find you "sleeping

v37 This saying sums up the theme of watchfulness. As noted, "being alert" is best understood as maintaining the faith as his coming will consume those without. Believers are to be "on the job."

γρηγορειτε (γρηγορεω) pres. imp. "Watch!"

Light one Candle

O Sapientia: O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation. (O antiphon 1)

The O Antiphons where and are sung with the Magnificat during evening prayer in the latter days of Advent. The sequence is like this
December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom) (cf Is 11:2-3; 28:29)
December 18: O Adonai (O Lord) (cf Is 11:4-5; 33:22)
December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse) (cf Is 11:1; 11:10 and Micah 5:1)
December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David) (cf Is 22:2; 9:6)
December 21: O Oriens (O Dayspring) (cf Is 9:1)
December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations) (cf Is 9:5; 2:4)
December 23: O Emmanuel (O With Us is God) (cf Is 7:14)
I commend the ELW for having restored all seven to the Advent hymn: O Come, O Come Emmanuel. They are a work of unknown origin, though the writings of Boethius in the 6th century suggest that they already existed then in some form. They are all related to prophecy from the book of Isaiah, as noted. If one was to take the letters of the title of each in reverse order the Latin words ero cras might be found. That in turn means: “I will Come.“
As preachers we have just slogged through 6 weeks of judgement texts from Matthew, end-times, warnings, and judgement — o my. Advent has now arrived and we are to do it again? I was really hoping that the Lord would return before I would have to preach again on such texts. I will find out Sunday, ‘round 10:45am what the outcome of that hope might be. 
Advent always begins with a text just like this one. We began the year of Matthew with the parallel text from Matthew 24, the text we were spared a few weeks ago, the one that immediately precedes the story of the ten maidens. Mark does not know that story but he reports Jesus foretelling a dark apocalypse right before these verses. Verses 24-26 really come as a promise. Yes, a promise in spite of the sun and moon failing and the stars falling. Angels will gather the Lord’s elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
But back to the morbid part of the chapter for a moment. Let’s see: false prophets, false messiahs, destruction of all that is sacred, persecution and harassment of the faith and the faithful, betrayal, cataclysmic disasters, wars that come suddenly, so sudden no one will have the time to prepare and everyone will be forced just to react. In short, chaos the like of which no one has ever seen unless they were given a glimpse of the “darkness” that covered the face of the deep as God’s face hovered above it. 
Pant. Pant.
I seem to recall that every generation on earth has had a “moment” when the wise and observant noted that, in the words of Eisenhower: “Things are more like they are now than they have ever been before!” (yes, you read that right) Every generation has had occasion to think that: “this might be it.” It never has been. 
So far.
Don’t think twice it’s alright. (Bob Dylan)
Is there such a thing as apocalyptic and eschatological hope? Should anyone have such hope or even aspire to have such hope? If one had it, would one be accused of being an escapist? Would charges of: “You are so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good,” be leveled against you if you were of such type hope and would you have the presence of mind to answer: “You are so earthly minded that you are no heavenly good?” OK, I only ever had the presence of mind to retort that once in my life, but it is a needed balance. 
Heaven, in a way, is a judgement upon earth as it is and as what we have made of it. It is hard to think about heaven as a judgement to be sure but the real problem is earth. If everything here is just hunk dory then why are there riots in the streets of Missouri as I write this? Why is a rag tag army sweeping across parts of the middle east committing atrocities as they go? Why are there hungry ones walking the streets of your city? Why are all solutions to all these problems always insufficient and even if they manage to solve the symptom at hand by armistice or charitable action, why does the problem, like an unclean spirit, just sort of fly away restlessly, wander through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finding none, says to itself, ‘I will return to my house from which I came,’ and when it comes, it finds swept and put in order, and it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of affairs is worse than the first. (Matthew 12:43ff) “So will it be also in this evil generation,” says Jesus. (Matthew 12:45) 
Killer comets fly overhead, no matter how many tiny space ships we parallel park on them. Yellowstone National park is, remains, and always will be one of the largest volcanoes on earth. It may erupt in another 10,000 years, but then, it might do so on Saturday. If so, I will still preach on Sunday since the fallout will not get here until Monday and the mass extinction will not arrive until 2017, but, given the apocalyptic shape of such an event, church would probably be full Sunday, and the stores would be looted in Clark County as well by then, leaving me without coffee for Monday morning.
We need to face it: There are things that have no earthly solutions. No one really wants to be that helpless but it is true. 
Who will light a small candle in this darkness? Who will say: “This is enough. I light this candle as a revolt against the worst this world has to offer. I light this candle as a revolt against the best this world has to offer. I light this candle as a testament to hope in the one who is my wisdom, my Lord, my  root in the past, my promise of redemption, my new dawn, my king, and my God with me yesterday, today, and tomorrow. My Lord says: ‘I will come,’ His angels will gather me in due time, I will refuse to be afraid, I refuse to give up. My candle and I stand against the darkness and, because of the God who is with me, the despair of darkness will not triumph but instead will be overcome. Christ is risen! Come, Lord Jesus” 

I dare you to light your Advent wreath that way. As a Christian would you do otherwise?  I dare you not to . . . 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Text for Christ the King Sunday, November 23, 2014

First Reading: Ezekiel 34:11–16, 20–24

11For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out.  12As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.  13I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land.  14I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.  15I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD.  16I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.
20Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep.  21Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide,  22I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.
23I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.  24And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.

Second Reading: Ephesians 1:15–23

15I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason  16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.  17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him,  18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,  19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.  20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,  21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.  22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church,  23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Gospel: Matthew 25:31–46

31When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.  32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,  33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.  34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;  35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.'  37Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?  39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?'  40And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'  41Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;  42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'  44Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?'  45Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'  46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Matthew 25:31-46; the Greek Text -- Pr. Fourman

Greek Study Matthew 25:31-46

v31 οταν + subj. "when" - an indefinite temporal clause.
o υιος του ανθρωπου "the Son of Man" - the reference is to the mysterious messianic figure who is enthroned at the right hand of the Ancient of Days (Dan.7:13). The phrase can be understood simply as "man" and so also served to maintain the “messianic secret”.
ελθη (ερχομαι) aor. subj. "comes" - to heaven, not earth.
εν τη δοξη του πατρος "in the glory of the Father", expressing high Christology; he comes in a cloud of divine presence, radiating the shekinah glory.
οι αγγελοι (ος) "the angels" – likely the heavenly messengers though possibly believers, messengers from earth, gathered with Christ on the final day.
v32 παντα τα εθνη (ος) "all the nations" - probably means "all peoples", Jew and Gentile likely includes dead and living since the day of judgment is also the day of resurrection. 
εμπροσθεν + gen. "before [him]" - spacial.
αφορισει (αφοριζω) pres. "will separate" - Palestinian sheep and goats look the same and since they graze together they are constantly being separated. Beare notes that the judgment here is not a trial, but the enacting of a sentence for decisions already made.
απ (απο) + gen. "[one] from [another]" - separation; "away from."
ωσπερ "as" - comparative."

v33 μεν .... δε "-" – idiom; on the one hand ..... but on the other ....."
ευωνυμων adj. "left" - The sheep and goats are sorted into the good luck and bad luck positions, sheep are on his right (honor, power and authority) goats on the left, a bad-omen position.

v34 τοτε adv. "then" - temporal adverb; indicates a division, identified by a new paragraph. "At that time" is better. We are probably dealing here with what was originally a kingdom parable, with τοτε serving as a stitching device; so "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to the situation where a king says to those standing to his right ...."
ο Βασιλευς (ευς εως) "the king" - in the parable's original setting "the king" could have been any king but in Jesus' explanation "the king" represented God. In the present context one suspect that Matthew sees Jesus/ Son of Man as the king. The "blessed of my father" leads to that conclusion. Jesus uses the title "Son of Man" because it is a mysterious messianic title where the Son of Man receives his right to rule from the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7). 
τοις dat. art. "to those [on his right]" - article serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase εκ δεξιων into a substantive, dative of indirect object. 
οι ευλογημενοι (ευλογεω) perf. pas. part. "you who are blessed" participle serves as a substantive. These blessed ones, standing to the right of the K/king, are blessed because they have been assigned to his right and thus gained their inheritance.
του πατρος (ηρ ρος) gen. "by [my] Father" - genitive may be classified as ablative, of origin. 
κληρονομησατε (κληρονομεω) aor. imp. "take your inheritance" - receive an inheritance. The inheritance is defined as the kingdom.
την ητοιμασμενην (ετοιμαζω) per. pas. part. "prepared" - the thing having been prepared. The participle serves as an adjective, , attributive, limiting "kingdom"; "the kingdom that has been prepared for you", Berkeley.
υμιν dat. pro. "for you" - Dative of interest, advantage.
απο + gen. "since [the creation of the world]" - expressing source. "God intended from the beginning to fashion creatures in community for fellowship with himself", Blomberg.

v35 γαρ "for" - cause/reason; explaining why those to the right are blessed by the Father.
μοι dat. pro. "[you gave] me" - [you gave something] to me. a dative of indirect object. The provision of food, drink and clothing to the needy is work required of the righteous in the Old Testament, and those who perform it "shall surely live", Ezk.18:6-9, cf. Job 22:6-7, Isa. 58:6-7.
φαγειν (εσθεω) aor. inf. "to eat" - infinitive is adverbial, expressing purpose; "you gave to me something in order that I might eat."
ημην (ειμι) imperf. "I was" - six different situations of distress and the actions to relieve them - good works which, although not defined by the Torah, were, in Jewish tradition, "decisive at the judgment". The aorist verbs are used except for "I was a stranger" and "I was in prison" where an imperfect verb to-be is used expressing an existing state rather than a durative action.
ξενος (ος) "a stranger/foreigner”, hospitality to the stranger is required of the righteous in the Old Testament, cf. Job.31:32.

v36 γυμνος adj. "I needed clothes" - naked.
ησθενησα (ασθενεω) aor. "I was sick" - the “caring” action may read "visit", or "care for", both actions required of the righteous. Given the religious requirements pertaining to disease, visiting someone who is sick is an act of above and beyond the call of duty.
ηλθατε (ερχομαι) aor. "[I was in prison and] you came [to visit me]" Ancient prisons provided a roof but nothing else. Food and other necessities were provided by family and friends so this is not just a visit to commiserate.

v37 οι δικαιοι (ος) "the righteous" - the "righteous" are the covenant compliant, those who are judged right before God.
αυτω dat. pro. αποκριθησονται."[will answer] him" – a dative of indirect object 
λεγοντες (λεγω) pres. part. saying. ποτε adv. "whenπεινωντα (πειναω) pres. part. [did we see you] hungry? - this (and other) participles serve to form a dependent statement of perception expressing what they saw, "when did we see that you were hungry ..... or thirsty?" The same construction is used for the participle "having sickness", in v39.

v40 αποκριθεις (αποκρινομαι) aor. pas. part. "[The King will] reply" – a Semitic construction.
αμην λεγω υμιν "I tell you the truth" – This phrase serves to underline the following statement and is often used by Jesus; likely emerging from Jesus' explanation rather than the parable itself.
εφ οσον "whatever" - This construction appears three times in Matthew, but not in the other gospels or the LXX. 
των ελαχιστων sup. adj. "[one] of the least" – a superlative of little; serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, partitive. In God's domain status is not important; this kind of act is what matters. So, the word identifies a degree of compassion beyond the norm, “love to the loveless shown...” 
τουτων gen. pro. "of these
των αδελφων (ος) gen. "brothers" - Jesus thus identifies himself fully with his disciples- a fellow child of God, but also a stranger within the gates. 
εμοι dat. pro. "[you did it] for me" - "you did it out of respect for me." The general principle, "the person who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, Prov.19:17, is the point.

v41 τοις πηρασεεκ ευωνυμων dat. art. "to those [on his left]"
απ (απο) + gen. "[depart] from [me]"
οι κατηραμενοι (καταραομαι) perf. pas. part. "you who are cursed" - cursed in that they are sent from the Father's presence into the το αιωνιον adj. "eternal" - (ever-burning) [fire]. This reference is often used to support the notion of eternal punishment, cf. v46, but the imagery used here is not necessarily describing eternal damnation, but of a fire that does not go out and so is ready to deal with the condemned.
το ητοιμασμενον (ετοιμαζω) perf. pas. part. "prepared"- having been prepared. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "eternal fire."
τω διαβολω (ος) dat. "for the devil" - deceiver, liar, slanderer. A dative of interest.
τοις αγγελοις (ος) "[his] angels" Satan's demons/gang

v42 ουκ εδωκατε (διδωμι) aor. "you gave [me] nothing [to drink]

v44 ου διηκονησαμεν (διακονεω) aor. "you did not provide a service " in the sense of serving one’s your need.

v45 αποκριθησεται (αποκρινομαι) fut. "he will replay" -.

v46 ουτοι pro. "they" απελευσονται (απερχομαι) fut. "will go away" (future)
εις "to"
κολασιν αιωνιον "eternal punishment" in the sense of suffering as a consequence of wrong behavior. This hell (the lake of unquenchable fire - Matt.15:3) is symbolic of a punishment that involves separation from God, better described as eternal nothingness. Banishment from the presence of the living God is a monstrous loss. The term appears only here in Matthew and probably derives from Daniel 12:2-3, LXX. "Eternal doom".

ζωην αιωνιον "eternal life" - Daniel 12:2; "and many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall rise, some to life everlasting." cf. Matt.19:16, 29, referring to "the future inheritance of eschatological blessing", or simply of entering the kingdom of heaven.

Will you Follow Him -Pr. Kruse

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. — Jesus Christ, Son of the Most High, king of Glory, Lord. 

There is an ethical framework that is played out here. That much everyone knows. It is even a somewhat obvious framework that has its roots in the sermon on the mount as quoted above. Good is to be done and woe to those who leave it undone. Though, the goats do not know that they are leaving something undone any more than the sheep know that they are doing blessed things. They are both acting their nature. As last week, the fact that God is Father of all, patriarch of our lives, dictates that we live as if we were inhabitants of his house because that is what we are. Not taking on the character of the family is to refuse to be part of the household of God. 
A further thing to note, and also informed by the sermon on the mount: One extended kindness to ones own family out of a sense of duty and also out of steadfastness to the family. One loved ones family as oneself because they were extensions of oneself much more so than today. One only had one another when it really mattered. One “loved” those who “loved” you back. It was in the interest of the family and the individual that one did so.
Hospitality was another matter. It was not extended to family who were assumed to be taken care of by the household. Hospitality was extended to strangers, and, since it was unknown who these people were and whether they were trustworthy or not, it was somewhat risky business that was done mainly by the men of the house. Abraham hosting the three angels at the oak of Marme is an example of this. (Gen 18)
This parable might well recall that episode. Just look at the content: God is about to bring judgement on the inhospitable Gomorra but is received by Abraham to whom favor is shown and who, based on his hospitable manner, is granted the privilege of intercession with God. Lot's house, his family, is shown to be “sheep” as well by Lot’s insistent (he has to beg the angels to accept it) and dangerous (he almost gets crushed protecting the visitors) hospitality to the two angels and Lot and his family are spared from the fire. (Gen 19)
Except, of course, for Lot’s wife. I am not sure why she ended up as a pillar of salt. The simple answer was that she disobeyed instructions. But why look back in the first place? Human nature loves a disaster that is happening to someone else. Watch the evening news and you know it is true. Recall that executions were once public and that they were events to be seen at. Recall that Rome had an entertainment industry that relied on this as does Hollywood. The more gory, the better. When Sodom and Gomorra are incinerated for ever and ever, it is best to avert your eyes. When God doles out final judgement, perhaps it is best not to gloat either. It is not safe, spiritually and certainly physically, to be in the vicinity of the wrath of God being unleashed. 
This parable is about judgement after all. The “goats” will go to destruction in the sea of fire prepared for the devil and his own. (25:41) For the sheep it is best that they maintain their sense of surprise at being the ones led into the kingdom. (25:37) 
There is a branch of theology known as theodicy. It is 18th century type of stuff, started in a theological debate that included Leibniz who could not let the idea that evil existed go unexplained and merely accepted. Leibniz embarked on the project to show that in spite of the presence of evil God is nonetheless good. Voltaire harshly criticized Leibniz in “Candide” by mocking the idea that the world we live in is in any way even acceptable. God is failing to show that God is good because this is clearly not the best of all possible worlds. Contained in there is the assumption that if God is good then evil should not exist because God should have pulled a Sodom and Gomorra on evil long ago. The assumption really is that we should recognize, hate, and eradicate evil in the world. All three of these actions are dangerous to our spirit. None of them are charity, in the 1 Cor 13 sense, in any way. Jesus on the other hand points out that good and evil enjoy the providence of God’s maintenance of creation. Evil, St. Paul adds, is not fought well with more evil. That merely increase evil in the world. Evil is only overcome with good. 
Bill Zimmann of blessed memory enjoyed asking the difficult question: “Do you think God loves the devil?” That always got a harsh reaction from pastors at bible study. But, Jesus says it is the nature of God to love even the enemy. Peter Kreeft once wrote: “Heaven would gladly exchange places with hell to end their suffering. They send an emissary to make that offer every day but every day the offer is rejected. That is why Jesus was hung for Judas but Judas hung himself.” The evil does not want to be loved neither can it love.
To live in this world it is good to remember a couple of things: First the wisdom of Eli: “He is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.” (1 Sam 3:18) We are celebrating Christ the King Sunday with this text after all. We might intercede for the world and even the conversion of evil but in the end it is up to a power that will make up his own mind in the matter and act without taking a vote on it. It is best to be in submission to the King of kings. 
What to do in that state of submission? Sit down like the stoics? No: Do, yes, do, as the master would. From last week we know that we are best advised to act in character with the master. What is that character? How are we “perfect” or “complete” as our Father in heaven? In charity. Not “love” toward those who are inclined towards already anyway but charity as a life habit. In all things. With all people. With all things even. Those “evil” — though we really do not know who that is — and those “good” — though we do not really know that someone is one or the other as neither the sheep or goats know of their state. Yes, charity with all and everything at all time, beginning with the least and most forgotten who are the recipients of no charity otherwise. 
Fr. Herbel, the prior at St. Augustine’s House in Michigan once advised in a sermon: “Always do the most gracious thing you can think of and you will never have to apologize.” It was advice he had gotten from his mentor Fr. Arthur Kreinheder at the occasion of a difficult decision. Whether it is good advice or not depends on your capacity to think about gracious solutions to the question: “What should I do,” I guess. God thought of a coronation with a cross serving as the throne. (John 19) What do you think you might come up with?

When God found us, we were found helpless as if we were abandoned babes that were left to the chaotic forces of this world. (Ez 16) We were found wandering in the desert hungry and parched our very bones demanding that we satisfy the longings of the flesh in any way possible. (Ex 16) We were found to be in the prison of sin, death and hell. (1 Pt 3) In each of these the King of kings worked his greatest labor: Charity. It is this charity that overcame the temptations in the desert (Mt 4) It is this charity that discloses him King of kings. It is this King that now says: Follow me and you will see world, flesh and devil fall from their usurped thrones like lightning. (Lk 10:18) Will you walk under his banner?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Readings for November 16th, 2014, The 23rd Sunday after Pentecost

First Reading: Zephaniah 1:7, 12–18

7Be silent before the Lord GOD!
For the day of the LORD is at hand;
the LORD has prepared a sacrifice,
he has consecrated his guests.
  12At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
and I will punish the people
who rest complacently on their dregs,
those who say in their hearts,
"The LORD will not do good,
nor will he do harm."
  13Their wealth shall be plundered,
and their houses laid waste.
Though they build houses,
they shall not inhabit them;
though they plant vineyards,
they shall not drink wine from them.
  14The great day of the LORD is near,
near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter,
the warrior cries aloud there.
  15That day will be a day of wrath,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
  16a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities
and against the lofty battlements.
  17I will bring such distress upon people
that they shall walk like the blind;
because they have sinned against the LORD,
their blood shall be poured out like dust,
and their flesh like dung.
  18Neither their silver nor their gold
will be able to save them
on the day of the LORD's wrath;
in the fire of his passion
the whole earth shall be consumed;
for a full, a terrible end
he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.\

Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1–11

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you.  2For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  3When they say, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!  4But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief;  5for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.  6So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober;  7for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night.  8But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.  9For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,  10who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.  11Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

Gospel: Matthew 25:14–30

14For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them;  15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.  16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents.  17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents.  18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.  19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.  20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.'  21His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'  22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.'  23His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'  24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed;  25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.'  26But his master replied, 'You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter?  27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest.  28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents.  29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.  30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'