I am now back from my final one week vacation. About the only thing Cheryl and I did was go to St. Croix Falls, Osceola, and Stillwater for the weekend to do some "touristy" things. We visited several antique shops, a tea shop, an "oils and vinegar" shop (WOW, what wonderful flavors), ate at a fancy Italian restaurant which is built at the entrance of a cave, and ate a banquet dinner on a riverboat. We had a wonderful time.
Wow, I am really behind on posting my lectionary comments; nearly two months. I resolve that I will post every week (until I don't)!
This week is busy so I am feeling like I can't do full justice to all of our texts for this coming Sunday. Maybe enough the whet your appetite for the readings. This Sunday our sermon series on "The Outsiders" focuses on "The Homeless".
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14 - It was time for the prophet Elijah to turn his ministry over to his protege Elisha. Elijah tries to dissuade Elisha from following him out into the wilderness but Elisha insisted. The last time Elijah talks to Elisha he ask Elisha what he could do for Elisha. The response, "Give me twice the spirit you have." Elijah tells him to watch and if he sees Elijah being taken up, he will get his request. When all is done, Elisha put on Elijah's mantle and used it to part the waters of the Jordan. What took Elijah up to heaven?
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20 - In the opening two verses the psalmist cries out to God for relief from his troubles. In the other ten verses, she remembers all that God has done in creation and in redeeming his people.
1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21 - After Elijah's encounter with the "still small voice" on Mount Horeb, he is instructed to go back to anoint a king for Israel and anoint Elisha as his successor.
Psalm 16 - After opening with a plea for protection and a statement that those who do not worship God will sorrow, the psalmist tells her hearers why she has chosen to follow God.
Galatians 5:1, 13-25 - Paul urges the churches and the church people in Galatia to not be re-enslaved to the Law and/or to the desires of the flesh. He seems to be using these words, law and flesh, as synonyms. But if you think about it, when we fall into the desires of the flesh we often rely on Law to counteract it, usually failing. If we have been freed from the desires of the flesh then we will be freed from using the Law, against ourselves and against others. In our reading this week, Paul give us a list of "the desires of the flesh" and a counter-balancing list of the fruits of the Spirit (there is no law against these) which come to those who have been set free from the law. Finally, if we allow the Spirit to guide our lives we will not fall back into rivalry.
Luke 9:51-62 - There are two sections to this reading. For the first section, my Bible has the title "A Samaritan Village Refuses to Receive Jesus". The various titles in our Bibles are placed there by the editors of the edition we are reading. I think that the title in my Bible is wrong. A close reading will show that Jesus has "set his face to go to Jerusalem". Perhaps Jesus decided to bypass the town because of the urgency of going to Jerusalem. Perhaps the town planned a big reception for Jesus but because he needed to keep moving they were not able to "receive" him. The disciples then try to blame the citizens of the town and want Jesus to do what God did to Sodom and Gomorrah. They are "Samaritans" by the way. (The story of the "Good Samaritan" is coming up in two weeks.) Are we like them when we want to blame someone when thing don't go as planned?
The second section of our reading is about various people's excuses for not following Jesus immediately. One want to follow but Jesus reminds him that there will be no place to rest. Jesus asks another but that one needs to bury his father (who may not even be dead yet). And a third says that he must say go and say goodbye to his household first to which Jesus says that those who look to the past are not fit for God's (in-breaking) Kingdom.
The synopsis for this week's sermon series is:
"There are homeless people all around us, some are without a physical home and others without a spiritual home. This passage reminds us that even Jesus was homeless. Even Jesus was cast out and turned away. [A reference to the Samaritan village, but see my thoughts above.] Whether we are welcoming those without a physical home or confronting our own need to find a spiritual home in Christ, this week we claim the reality of a new home as followers of Jesus. To claim our home in the Kin-dom requires us to let go of our former home and look toward our home with God."
So, how are we as followers of Christ ministering to a homeless world? Is there any urgency?
May God bless you in the reading of scripture this week.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor