I recently submitted this blog site to "Methoblog" which aggregates Methodist bloggers and then "tweets" the links to new blog entries. If you have come to my blog through Methoblog, I welcome you. I normally use this site as my commentary on the Scripture Lessons we will be using at worship on the next Sunday at Peace United Church in Long Prairie, MN, and Grey Eagle United Methodist Church in Grey Eagle, MN. I also use this blog to link to our monthly newsletters or to recordings on YouTube of our worship service at Grey Eagle. Occasionally I will have something to say about the United Methodist Church as I did in the blog post before this one. Comments are welcome but I will probably not respond to most of them.
This coming Sunday we will continue with part three of the sermon series “Violence & God’s Redeeming Love”. Our theme this week is “Scapegoat, Sacrifice, Mythology.” If I haven’t said it before, I am basing this series on the book “Compassion or Apocalypse: A Comprehensible Guide to the Thought of Rene Girard” by James Warren. The link is to the Amazon Kindle version.
Our lessons are:
Leviticus 16:1-10, 20-22 – What is a “scapegoat”? In today’s understanding it is the person who gets blamed when something goes wrong whether they deserve the blame or not. For instance, who got the blame for a dismal season, and fired, on December 30, 2013, following the last regular season NFL football game? Five Head Coaches. Did they deserve all the blame? Probably not but they were the scapegoat. (Don’t cry for them, however, because they all received millions of dollars in contract buyouts.) This text is the implementation of the actual “scapegoat” or “Azazel”. On the Day of Atonement Aaron sacrificed a bull to atone for his family’s sin. he then had two goats brought before him and one was randomly chosen to be slaughtered and the on the other Aaron place his hands, and therefore all the sins of the people of Israel, on the goat which was then driven into the wilderness. This second goat was the scapegoat. Why do you think this was necessary?
2 Samuel 21:1-14 – When something goes wrong someone has to be blamed. This is an obscure story of a three year drought. It is also a story of David removing potential rivals to the throne. Perhaps David or his followers came up with a good story as to why 7 descendants of Saul, 2 sons and 5 grandsons, had to be killed: Saul broke a treaty with the Gibeonites made in Joshua 9 and therefore there is drought. Since Saul is already dead, killing some of his sons will appease God who will then end the drought. This God, as depicted in this story, sounds more like a god of the Greeks, Romans, Assyrians, and Babylonians, who must be appeased with blood when angered. Remember, someone must be blamed and rivals must be removed. Why not kill two birds . . . ?
Matthew 7:1-12 – Chapter 7 of Matthew is the last third of the Sermon on the Mount. When Jesus completes the sermon the crowds will be astounded and will laud him as one teaching with authority. In our twelve verses we have four different teachings, as titled by my edition of the Bible – Judging Others, Profaning the Holy, Ask Search Knock, and The Golden Rule. Think of these as the antidote to blaming others. If we see and deal with the sin in our own lives we won’t worry about someone else’s sin. If we look to God for all we need (ask, search, knock) we will be satisfied and not desire what others have. And if we live life as if our neighbors were us we would respect and treat them well. Living the life of the Sermon on the Mount breaks the cycle of imitative desire, rivalry, and violence.
As usual, I encourage you to continue reading the Lectionary Texts for this Sunday. At the conclusion of the current sermon series we will return to the Lectionary for our readings at Sunday Worship. The texts for this week are:
Micah 6:1-8 – This section of Micah is set in a courtroom with God as the prosecutor, the hills and mountains as the jury, and Israel (and us?) as the defendants. God wants an answer to why the people no longer love and follow God. What did God do to drive them away? The answer is “nothing”. What God has done is save his people. The people ask, in turn, “What can we do? Slaughter more calves, or rams, or offer rivers of oil, or even sacrifice our children?” This is a classic indictment of the sacrificial system because God wants none of it. What God wants from us is justice, mercy, and a steadfast and everlasting walk with him. (One commentator thought this was a better translation than “humble”.)
Psalm 15 – Another way of stating Micah 6:8.
1 Corinthians 1:18-31 – Paul is still setting up his response to the divisive issues that are tearing the First Church of Corinth apart. He want the church to know the true nature of God’s power and wisdom and it is not through force, threats, coercion, deceit, or condemnation. God’s power and wisdom was witnessed in the death of Jesus on the cross. God dying on the cross is a scandal (stumbling block) and downright foolish according to the wisdom of the world.
Matthew 5:1-12 – The upside down world of God’s power and wisdom is on full display in the opening verses of the Sermon on the Mount. In the world’s way of seeing things those with wealth, power, control, and the things that flaunt them are the blessed. If they were not blessed by God why would they have all those things? No, says Jesus, it is the poor in spirit (just the poor in Luke), the mourners, the meek, the hungry and thirsty, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted who are truly blessed. These are the people who suffer at the hands of the powerful. They are the true victims of society.
Have a great week serving and loving God by serving and loving your neighbor.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor