Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Scripture readings for Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hello Everyone,

Quick! What does the word "prodigal" mean to you? What parable of Jesus do you associate with "prodigal"?

Trivia: the word "prodigal" does not appear in any English translation of the Bible. None. But we associate the word with Jesus' parable found at Luke 15:11-32.

According to ( prodigal as an adjective is defined as 1.) wastefully or recklessly extravagant; 2.) giving or yielding profusely; lavish; and 3.) lavishly abundant; profuse. Prodigal as a noun is defined as 4.) a person who spends, or has spent his/her money or substance with wasteful extravagance; spendthrift.

Have you experienced someone who had prodigal spending and giving? Have you ever spent or given away prodigally? The readings from Isaiah, Romans and Matthew are about the one who gives love, grace and forgiveness prodigally.

Genesis 25:19-34 – At the beginning of chapter 25, Abraham has been a busy man following the death of Sarah. He married again and his new and probably young wife bore him six sons. Then Abraham died at the ripe old age of 175. Isaac and Ishmael come together to bury their father with his wife Sarah. There is no note about what happened to Ishmael’s mother, Hagar. In our verses this week, Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, gets pregnant with twins who fight within the womb. She inquires of the Lord and is told that the older boy will serve the younger boy (a recurring theme in the Old Testament). The first to be born was red and hairy. He was named Esau, which I believe means “hairy”. A few verses later we learn that he is also named Edom, which means “red”. The next to be born followed immediately by holding on to the foot of Esau. He was named Jacob, which may mean “grabby”. In verse 28 we learn that Mom loved Jacob because he was a bit of a homeboy and Dad loved Esau because he was an outdoorsman. In verses 29-34 we also find out that Esau was none too bright because he traded away his birthright for a bowl of stew.

Psalm 119:105-112 – The longest chapter of the Bible (176 verses and 4 1/2 pages in my Bible). It consists of 22 stanzas of 8 verses each. The 8 verses in each stanza all begin with the same letter of the Hebrew Alphabet (or should I say Aleph-Taw). Our verses consist of the 14th stanza and the letter “nun”. Verse 105 is the opening line of a famous Amy Grant song.

OR Isaiah 55:10-13 – You really should read the entire chapter which my Bible labels “An Invitation to Abundant Life”. Come to God’s market and receive food, wine, and milk with no price attached, freely given away. Look for the Lord while he is near. In verse 8, God says that his thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways. Why then do we, and I am as guilty as anyone, try to define God’s judgment and mercy in the ways humanity defines judgment and mercy? In our verses for this week God brings the rains and snows to water the earth that it may flourish. So too, God’s word goes out (prodigally?) and accomplishes God’s work in the world before it returns to God. All of this brings joy to God’s creation such that the mountains and hills sing and the trees clap their hands. Here is another hymn to listen to (Isaiah 55:12):

Psalm 65: (1-8) 9-13 – A Psalm of praise for God’s creation and God’s role in taming creation and bringing forth the earth’s bounty for God’s people.

Romans 8:1-11 – I read from Romans 8 at a lot of the funerals I lead. We will be reading from this chapter for the next three Sundays. In this chapter Paul turns to the Spirit of Life that sets us free from the Law of sin and death. Paul’s argument may seem a little dense as he keeps returning to the law of death which continues to live in us. I think what trips us up with Paul is his use of "spirit" and "flesh". Perhaps "Spirit of Life" and "Law of Sin and Death" are a little better. Paul is a good Jewish thinker and he does not think that we have two parts: spirit (good) and flesh (bad). We are created one: body, mind, and spirit. Perhaps "Way of Jesus" and the "Ways of the World" are better ways of understanding what Paul is getting at. We are all enslaved to the Ways of the World, but, he says that we have been set free by Jesus Christ and that God has condemned sin (the Ways of the World) in the flesh through the death of Jesus on the Cross. (Please note that God did not kill Jesus but that Jesus confronted the sin of this world, took on that sin, and died because of it. This sets us free.) Paul then says that we who have believed in Jesus have been given the Spirit of God which leads us to all righteousness. With Christ in us, even though our body would be dead because of sin, our bodies have been given new life. Like I said, it’s complicated. God is the prodigal sower of grace, love, and forgiveness. We will spend two more weeks on Chapter 8 and all of Paul’s argument for Life.

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 – We skip all of chapter 12 which includes the disciples working on Sabbath (plucking grain); Jesus healing a withered hand on the Sabbath and the Pharisees conspiring to kill Jesus; he heals a blind, mute, demon possessed man and the Pharisees claim Jesus has a demon; Jesus teaches about good and bad fruit, the sign of Jonah, the return of unclean spirits, and who belongs to his true family (and it is not his mother, brothers, and sisters). Our reading this week is the parable of the sower, the seeds, and the soils. The first section is the parable and the second section is the explanation of the parable. The skipped section is Jesus’ explanation of what parables are used for, which is to confuse those who think they know and make his words understandable to the innocent. I suggest that you read verses 1-9 and ponder them, trying to forget what you have known about the parable from verses 18-23. What do you think the parable may mean? Could there be more meaning in the parable than is presented in the explanation? What other ways could we understand what Jesus is trying to tell you? 

I won’t answer these questions now because I have a novel understanding of this parable that I have presented in the past. I have also left plenty of hints in this post. If you want to know come to worship at Grey Eagle UMC at 9:00 AM or Peace United Church at 10:30 AM. See you then.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

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