This week, we go back nearly to the beginning (Luke 3), where we find a veritable “who’s who” of first-century C.E. ruling officials listed in Luke 3:1-2. Politically, Luke indicates, circumstances have changed; a Roman governor now rules Judea, and the Jewish leaders operate under the Roman emperor Tiberius. Luke’s mention of them speaks both to his historiographical style and to his stated interest (emphasized in the prologue) in presenting an orderly and thorough account (1:1 Advent asks us to question, what’s in a name? And more importantly, what does the name of Jesus mean? -4).
Deferring an answer to this question suggests acquiescence to Tiberius, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip, Lysanias, Annas, and Caiaphas as names more powerful than the very name of God. And, in the end, Dear people, naming the name of Jesus puts your very name on the line.
These are some rather pontifical names in the midst of a story that started out with an elderly barren woman who is then blessed with a child, a teenager who gets pregnant, and a birth in a stable with only animals and shepherds as witnesses. The contrast is striking — and perhaps that is the point. Jesus the King, Jesus the Messiah, seems no match for these rulers of the world. And yet, indeed, it will be his reign that will topple the most prodigious of dominions. It will be the name of Jesus that will tear down the grandest of kingdoms and expose them for their duplicity, hypocrisy, and imperial lust.
At the end of this list of leaders comes “John son of Zechariah.” This point has already introduced Luke’s readers to John. We know of his unlikely conception (Zechariah and Elizabeth are “old” and Elizabeth is “barren,” 1:7), and we know that he is related to Jesus. Indeed, most commentaries note that the infancy stories portray John and Jesus symmetrically. Still, they are not meant to be as equals; the Baptizer is “great” before the Lord (1:15), but he is clearly inferior to Jesus. This so-called “step-parallelism” portrays John as Jesus’ God-sent precursor.
There is an odd chronological gap between 2:52, which simply states that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, to 3:1, where John comes on the scene fully grown. So startling is this jump that some redaction critics have suggested that the original beginning of Luke’s Gospel was 3:1 and Luke 1 and 2 were added later. One need not engage in source-critical debates to wonder why the narrator skips over Jesus’ and John’s childhoods (with the exception of 2:41-52), especially given that ancient Greco-Roman biographies often did include a hero’s early years. Why does Luke move so suddenly from a story of Jesus at twelve (2:41-52) to the account of John as an adult (3:1-6)?
One effect of the leap from the young Jesus to the adult John is to draw attention to the fulfillment of previous prophecies about John’s role. The angel Gabriel had told Zechariah: and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him. (1:16-17)
Zechariah had then reiterated: and you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High. For you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. (1:76-77)
By collapsing the timeline of some thirty years into the space between two verses, Luke makes the prophecies about John the Baptist seem to be fulfilled instantaneously. This storytelling technique subtly reinforces the Lukan theme of divine fulfillment.
Luke reinforces divine fulfillment further by citing the prophet Isaiah (“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord…”3:4-6). Luke 3:1-6 situates John the Baptist as a threshold figure, a prophet standing in the gap, between the Hebrew prophets of old (like Isaiah), and the promised prophet to come (Jesus).
Think, for example, of God’s interventions as Moses leads the people of Israel through their forty-year sojourn in the wilderness: also the young David runs to the desert to escape Saul’s wrath, or as the prophet Elijah flees from persecution into the wilderness. Wilderness imagery permeates prophetic texts, and includes promise of abundance and joy (such as Isaiah 35:1: “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom…”).
Luke picks up and makes use of the above associations in his depiction of John. Notice, too, the often overlooked detail in Luke 1:80: “The child [John] grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.” John the Baptist does not simply appear one day in the desert. Luke suggests that his growth and spiritual strength actually develop there.
This is a hopeful and necessary message for us today. It doesn’t take much effort to imagine our world as a desert. Scarcity, isolation, hunger, and violence seem to be the rule of the day. The pain and injustice around us can make us wonder whether God is at work in this wilderness. But Luke suggests that the wilderness is precisely where God provides what we need, so that we can now be the ones “crying out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.’”
This is Advent for me, waiting in the wilderness for the holy sprit to blow.
A sermon on the 8th of July,2018
2 Samuel 5:1-5,9-10
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Mark 6: 1-13
I would like to start with a reading from Malachi 3:5 least we forget.
“Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who trust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.”
God calls out: Please Love
God draws near. In todays Gospel reading Christ hometown has to deal with God drawing near. And they reject him. The Gospel this morning is a reminder that not all in our own town will take us seriously. Here was the Son of God within his own town and the fact was not clear to them. Logic did not work. They asked how could this be? We have his family with us, how can this be?
Yes how could this be?
Two weeks ago the apostle’s asked the same question when Christ calmed the storm. They asked who is this that can do these things?
Yes how could this be?
Last week Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “who touched me?”
Yes the same question, “how can this be?”
The woman is healed and she now can return to community, a restoration of life. She had been separated from her community and place of worship, during her sickness. So she was made free again.
In each of these accounts Jesus is saying that great things will happen if one truly has faith. But also that when one speaks out for justices and proclaims the Gospel of love there is always rejection.
The kingdom of God has drawn near is not good news to everyone. There has always been resistance to the true power of God’s love. This is a hard lesion to learn, and hard truth to take hold of.
We know what rejection is like. As St. Alban’s brings the word of God near to the streets and parks. Lets name rejection for what it is a symptomatic issue of the indiscriminate nature of God’s love.
I call it “idolatry” the worship of power, money, and influence. This idolatry has seeped into our society so that even well meaning people do not recognize it and even validate and justify it. We must be careful about how we feel about the Bible and not hold it more valuable than the personal experiences of God, the personal experience of love.
There is another type of idolatry when we put our trust in age-old systems of patriarchy and privilege and patriotism because it is familiar. In this we uphold policies and principles not built on love and do not take care of the poor and alien.
The most difficult idolatry to identify is our worship of the self. The kind of love that thinks that God’s love can be controlled. It’s a love that can be measured out in increments. It demands that God’s love is given out based on worth and merit and then accompanied by comparison and competition.
Rejection starts an unraveling of the self. Causing one to question ones worth, justification of the self and validation of self.
Karoline Lewis said
“External forces clamor for our attention and our loyalties. And all of a sudden, you start trusting, believing in that which makes you feel loved in the moment, worthy in the moment, rather than the one who made you feel more loved than ever before in your whole life.
Rejection is never something easily sloughed off as, “Oh, well. That’s their problem” or, “That’s ok, I’ll just move on.” Jesus knows; rejection is what eats at the soul, even a soul already saved. So, Jesus goes first. Jesus always does.”
After the rejection Christ suffered the twelve go out on mission. They were given the power of healing both spiritual and physical needs. Yet they were rejected and so will we be rejected. As we bring the kingdom of God’s unconditional love into our community.
We must stand up for what is right and fair. Stand up for unconditional love. And name idolatry in our selves and society. Rejection is part of being a Christian. Remember that we have a living God of unconditional love, and our worth is in God’s love.
“The heart of the Christian life is a personal relationship with Christ. A Christian is a person in whom Christ abides. We experience our life in union with Christ through faith, prayer, love, acts of witness, service to others an above all through the Liturgy and the reception of Holy Communion”.(unknown author)
Growing up I cannot remember when I got my first lesion on morals. Very early on I was told not to tell lies. And if I did there were to be consequences. The first time I can remember being caught in a lie was when I made a very large mess and when asked about it; I said it was the dog. But alas my mother had witnessed the event. I cannot remember the punishment but I know that it upset the family harmony.
Family harmony is at the core of today’s readings.
In the Gospel this morning Christ asks the question “who is my family?” then he goes on to answer the question. “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God are my brother and sister and mother.” Here Jesus is drawing new lines for family identity. In this passage, he declares the imminent end of a satanic reign, mocks the big-league scribes and describes them as utterly resistant to God, and tells his nervous family that he does not belong to them but to his collaborators.
Religious authorities and his relatives lack imagination; based on how they view things, “demonic” and “insane” are categories that promise protection. Those labels represent last-gasp attempts to hold onto faulty worldviews. Yet the labels do not stick. Christ cuts to the core of human relationship and the relationship between God and the human family.
Speaking of families how well do you think we as a community and nation are upholding families? In fact the bible has over 240 passages on family. And many more that reference family. I started this morning by telling you about my introduction to morals that laid the foundation for adulthood.
Many families are suffering from domestic violence; we should speak up in support of the sufferers. Making sure that the law is enforced.
If you see it report it.
We should speak out against cruelty and separation of families.
Why should we speak out? It is our responsibility as adults in Christ to speak out against evil and sin. We should never be afraid to call out evil. We should never be afraid to call out sin.
If you hear sinful speech, speak out. Call out the sinful pride that separates people and families. Call out racism.
God does not want anyone left out of the family. Let me say that again,
God does not want anyone left out of the family
Taking a moral stand for unity and calling out sin and immorality in society is our responsibility. We are the ones to remind the world that God’s family cares for all. We must as adults in the Jesus movement take action. Speaking out for the poor, oppressed, maligned mistreated, sick and those in need of help
We must speak out against policies that have rejected refugees, refused aid to immigrants, cut social services to the poor, diminished help for the sick, fuel xenophobia, reinforces misogyny, ignores racism, stokes hatred, reinforces corruption, and largely increases inequality, prejudice, and fear.
Christ said, “A house divided cannot stand”
If we as Christians are complacent, and keep quite when we hear someone who says they are Christian and are supporting these evils of society then we evade our responsibility to family and God.
Let us speak out in love and compassion. Always speaking the truth. Calling society to come under one roof, to be one family where no one is left out.
Ref: Bible RSV
Fortress Commentary on the Bible
The New Oxford Annotated Bible
God created the world and said it is good; it is very good. (Genesis 1:31)
In a sermon by The Revd. Dr. Rachel Mash, who is the environmental coordinator for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. Pointing out that the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy. She went on to say; the planet is warming at disastrous speed, our oceans are full of plastic. The theme this year Earth Day is “plastic pollution. Diego delights in Earth Day. Just Google Earth Day San Diego 2018 and you will find a full page of links to activities.
This being Good Shepherd Sunday we are called upon to consider our love for Earth, community, and church family. John is blunt, “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our life’s. “ Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” Christ said I lay down my life for the sheep; this act of self-giving love is to show all the love of God. This should be an example for us. But how are we to lay down our lives? There are the works of mercy.
1. To feed the hungry
2. To give water to the thirsty
3. To clothe the naked
4. To shelter the homeless
5. To visit the sick to visit the imprisoned, or ransom the captive
6. To bury the dead.
All of these acts are part of following the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepard leads us to love. The Greek word Koinonia is a word used to define a Christian community. A fellowship of believers who share in an intimate spirituality, Koinonia is a community with each other and with their Lord.
In a broader sense Koinonia is the care of the wider community the giving and sharing of Gods love. We do an outstanding job at that in this community and we should be proud of this, but we should also be aware of how fragile life and community are. Working each day to show Gods love and caring for Gods creation. Caring for community follows.
I would like to read a short part from a book I read this past week called “Arctic Dreams” by Barry Lopez
“The mind, full of curiosity and analysis, disassembles a landscape and then reassembles the pieces— the nod of a flower, the color of the night sky, the murmur of an animal— trying to fathom its geography. At the same time the mind is trying to find its place within the land, to discover a way to dispel its own sense of estrangement.”
This landscape can be our Earth or our community. And I try to dispel my own sense of estrangement in trying to discern my role in Gods creation and community. Please join me in discerning your role in the care of the Earth and our community. The resurrection means a new Creation-restored humanity living on a restored Earth. Let us commit ourselves to becoming healers of Earth and community.
Evangellii Gaudium the joyful news. He has risen!
The darkness has been broken by the light of Christ, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all”. “ We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life” John keeps reminding us that the word became flesh.
When my children would come to tell me what they had seen and heard, I would say show me. It’s not that I didn’t believe their testimony I needed to see and understand what they were talking about.
I am reminded of Phillip saying to Nathaniel, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” You remember what Nathaniel said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” and Phillip said come and see. Nathaniel will have to encounter Jesus so that he will have a testimony for others. It is Nathaniel’s skepticism that brings him to Christ. The woman at the well was very skeptical, with her encounter with Christ. In this light Thomas looks good and is in line with all in the passed people on their spiritual journey.
Thomas has a burning need for a personal contact with the risen Christ. All of Thomas’s friends have had an encounter with the risen Christ; Thomas yearned for the same experience. “Thomas will not be shamed into believing, or shamed into at least keeping his unbelief to himself. Neither will Thomas ignore what he knows in order to believe something he does not know.” I too have this same yearning, on my spiritual journey.
Nathaniel has his encounter, the woman at the well has an encounter, and Mary and the disciples have theirs.
John’s gospel has a pattern in which someone hears about Jesus and needs more — and then receives what they need. This opens the door for their personal experience of the risen Christ. The church of early Christians not only continue the ministry of Jesus, they increases it. One needs a personal experience in order to offer a testimony. The important thing here is that we are on a spiritual journey, a journey of experience and encounter with the living Christ.
Our community today is no different. We tell about Christ and invite other to come and see. Our invitation is the same as the early church. We continue to show Christ love and invite others to come and experience Christ in their lives. Showing our love is basic in the spreading of the Joyful News of the risen Christ.
I would like to close with a story from the Desert Fathers as a summary of today’s readings.
Four monks came to Abba Pambo, one fasted, one owned nothing, the third was a man of charity, and the fourth lived in the obedience to others. Abba Pambo said, “ The latter has greater virtue. The other three use their own wills to keep their promises. But this one roots out his self-will and makes himself the servant of another’s will. People like that. If they persevere till death, are saints”
Fourth Sunday in Lent
Knowing where one is going and time of arrival is a real comfort. Or when you travel do you worry about what you are going to eat along the way or on arrival? The people spoke against God and Moses saying, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” When I am in this kind of darkness. I too have spoken out against God. This is not about food or water or how one feels. This is about looking to God for healing, comfort, and confidence.
John’s Jesus is the preexistent Son of God
Sent into the world to be Gods agent
John’s Jesus insists that believer’s have eternal life in the present at the same time he promises eternal life in the future.
John’s writing is a contrasts between light and darkness, Moses and Jesus, law and truth, acceptance and rejection” With verbs like “believing”, “seeing”, and “knowing”; now that is John’s Jesus. In the Gospel of John everyone speaks the same language. A very limited vocabulary, with the same key words repeating over and over again: love, truth, light, darkness, life, world, see, look, know, believe, ha e faith, send, abide, hour, glory, father, son. John uses these words, which are rare in the other gospel’s, more often that the rest of the New Testament combined .
Scripture: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV)
For many years someone would bring a sign to important foot ball games. All the sign said was, John 3:16 in very large letters. They would always get TV coverage. I often wondered if those signs converted anyone. Where they a light shining in the darkness?
And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.
For all who do evil hate the light or are too fearful to admit to evil. And do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” Now that is my kind of evangelism. Let your light so shine that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.
We are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works.
Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Lent is a time for us to ask ourselves what part of the dark do we still like. Where do we live in the dark?
Can we as a community move through lent without guilt yet open ourselves up to understanding of our personal and communal shortcomings?
Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. In todays pluralism do we believe this?
I think that one could conclude that John’s community was hard pressed in proclaiming the Gospel of light to the world and also have encountered push back from the World. For John’s world was pluralistic in believers and non-believers. I suggest that our mission is as difficult. Pluralistic ideas of our time have seeped into our theology.
Today’s pluralism has had a profound effect on our lives and the church. The church struggles with defining the difference between diversity and pluralism. Diversity without real encounter and relationships will increase tensions in our society. Pluralism is not just tolerances it should be the active seeking of understanding of the differences. I am not saying that tolerance in not a public virtue, but it does not remove our ignorance of one another, and leaves us with stereotype, half-truths, and fears. Fear that has lead to violence and division.
This inability of our social order to engage person to person will prove to be very costly and be a place were darkness would prevail.
In today’s society many of us are faired to let our true opinions be known, yet a full one on one relationship relies on openness.
“Pluralism is based on dialogue. The language of pluralism is that of dialogue and encounter, give and take, criticism and self-criticism. Dialogue means both speaking and listening, and that processes reveal both common understandings and real differences. Dialogue does not mean everyone at the “table” will agree with one another. Pluralism involves the commitment to being at the table — with one’s commitments.
I hope that we as a church can come to this table and not water down our theology, and not be part of the heresy of feel good theology, a theology where every idea is accepted as truth without thoughtful consideration of our three-legged stool, of a balanced understanding of authority, tradition, and God’s revelation. This balanced understanding of the middle way, “Via Media” is an Anglican willingness to tolerate and comprehend opposing viewpoints instead of imposing tests of orthodoxy or resorting to heresy trials.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good and his mercy endures forever.
Happy New Year
I would like to share a bit of history of the church where I am assigned. The Welcome Church of El Cajon was initially established by the congregation of St. Alban Episcopal Church in Wells Park in the spring of 2013 to be a radically open, radically welcoming community of faith in El Cajon offering prayer, the Lord’s Table, companionship and true and practical concern for the needs of our neighbors on the street.
Since 2013 the ministry has grown, an ecumenical advisory board has been established, and clergy from the ELCA and UMC have joined Father Dave Madsen as celebrants at “the church with no walls”
We believe it is time to strengthen the foundation of the Welcome Church and to extend its ministry to the marginalized in our community. This means increased focus on pastoral care, building new ecumenical partnerships, better connection to resources for the purpose of referrals, and participating in community wide efforts at education and advocacy on behalf of those on the streets.
We understand this to be our Gospel imperative; to share the truly “good news” of Jesus-that God loves you just as you are, and that all God’s gifts are intended by him to be experienced and enjoyed by all God’s people; regardless of where they slept last night.
The Welcome Church meets on the forth Sunday of each month at 3 PM in Wells Park on Madison in El Cajon. I get to preach often and enjoy the people and the setting. We meet under some very large pine trees. Set up card tables and chairs and have a communion service then lunch/church picnic. I am attaching a snap shot of one of our summer services. I would hope that some day you might take the drive and come see us.
Ash Wednesday Sermon Preached at St. Alban’s El Cajon 2016
In ancient Israel the symbolism of ashes was understood to be a forceful reminder of the pervasiveness of human sin and of the inevitability of human death. What is the message from the early church? I think it is instructions for everyday living. The message is about personal piety, charitable donations, and private prayer. This is about the religious practices of everyday life of Judaism. Isaiah calls us to sincere deeds of unselfish personal sacrifice, not false humility disguised by fasting. Isaiah, Paul, and Matthew are asking us to examine our personal piety.
- As many of you know I hang out with the homeless. One of my friends there came to the camp all chopped up, face, hands, and head. We asked what happen? He said that he got drunk and fell onto the channel rocks. He tried not too but just could not stop and went over the edge. After a long silence I said why didn’t you not just sit down? He had no answer, but said that he will try that the next time he was in that situation. Weeks later he was healed and looked good. Then two days later he was all beat up again. The first thing he said to me was, “I forgot to sit down.”
So like my friend that forgot to sit down, I ask you to remember to sit down and go to that special private place in your heart. Remind yourselves that in that secret room of your heart there is reward and rest. What a loving God we have. (Verse 14 of the psalm 103 suggests that a father’s compassion is related to his understanding of the child’s frailty.)
Paul calls on the Corinthians, “We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:20b) You know that Christ thought with a human mind, worked with human hands, and loved with a human heart. Yet was without sin. We have this good news. We have this great high priest that understands us. We know that we can turn to him and find forgiveness and love.
I bid you a holy lent of praying, fasting, and loving completely. Especially loving completely, and remember to sit down and go to that secret place in your heart, where your treasure is, and be with God. Amen