Sunday, July 21, 2013

Proper 4 + Year C + 2013

Proper 4 +C + 2013                       The Reverend Robert R.M. Bagwell+
2, June AD 2013
1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43                                                                                      Psalm 96:1-9
Galatians 1:1-12                                                                                                   Luke 7:1-10

 "Two elderly excited women who were sitting together in the front pew
of church with a fiery preacher.  When this preacher condemned the sin 
of lust, these two ladies cried out at the top of their lungs...  AMEN... BROTHER!
When the preacher condemned the sin of stealing, they yelled again...PREACH IT REVEREND!
And when the preacher condemned the sin of lying...they jumped to their feet and screamed.
But when the preacher condemned the sin of gossip, the two got quiet and one turned to the other and 
said, "He's done quit preaching and now he's meddlin'."
Some would say that God and Christians meddle in others' lives. Is it 'meddlin' or is it steadfast enduring LOVE!   I would say that it always feels meddlesome to those who are being meddled WITH.  I know at times children feel meddled with by parents, students by teachers,  clergy by bishops.  Who meddles with you?

 Did you "PRAY" the collected prayers for today? For those who may not remember what was prayed, it was this:

"O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth: Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

The Christian gospel is not something we do, it is who we are. It is a myriad of choices every day.  What did Elijah say to the Israelites: "choose this day whom you will serve."  What did Paul say: " I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel..." What did Jesus say: "he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, 'I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith'" How do we choose?

God wants to put away from us all hurtful things, but sometimes that is not what WE really want!  God wants to give us those things that are profitable or best for us, but sometimes that is not what WE want!  The word "trespass" in the Lord's Prayer means to "cross into territory that we should not be wandering into." 

Today's Old Testament begins with the ministry of  Elijah.  God calls him to go to the king of Israel, Ahab.  In the previous part of the chapter to our reading, Ahab greets Elijah: "Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 He answered, “I have not troubled Israel; but you have, and your father’s house, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and followed the Ba'als."

After reprimanding the people for being 'double-minded' or 'wavering between two opinions', he says: ", "How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Ba'al, then follow him." The people did not answer him a word."  You know the type, perhaps you ARE the type.  Is your modus operandi "I hesitate to make a decision?"  In this age when we are so concerned about what others think of us, is God first or merely a 'second opinion' like we might consult  a doctor?

 The texts today are about the "character" of 'faith'.  In the reading from the Older Testament, the only one who has any certainty or 'faith' seems to be the prophet Elijah.  The 'crowd' is of two mindsets, although primarily one. Even in this context, it is 'go along to get along.'  This says something about how the "the mob" behavior functions. The presuppositions or "political correctness" of the majority of the people, are challenged by this 'troubler of Israel". Indeed it seems that the 'outsiders' in many different Older Testament settings, are more attuned to the God of Israel than are the 'insiders' who 'ought' to be. 

Elijah issues a challenge: Yahweh against Ba'al.  The God who performs is the REAL God! Now the text does not cite any penalty for the 'loser' but the penalty under the Deuteronomic Law for worshipping a false god was death.  Was Elijah not laying down his life? Ahab had issued a warrant for his capture.  Were the prophets of Ba'al laying down their lives?  One of the greatest problems for the people of God, past and present is to be lured away by the 'social or sensual' appeal' of other 'gods.' You know the self-justifying retort: "Everybody's doing it." What dictates our decisions?  Do we ever ask: "What would Jesus do?"

 Frequently Roman Centurions seem to appear in the gospels in a positive rather than in a negative sense. This particular Centurion is very aware of the faith of the God of Israel and the character of authority.  The Authority need not personally 'do' what needs doing, but delegate it and it is done in his name.  That is how he understands authority on earth, should it not be so for authority in heaven?  Submission to the authorized authority then unleashes the power that is needed.  Even in the Older Testament, God "pulls a fast one" on his people by healing those outside of the 'Chosen' while allowing the 'outsiders' to experience his power and transformation. That tells us something about the character of faith.  It is the 'assurance' of that which is unseen.(Heb 11)   Finding 'faith' in unexpected places. 

Do you see the correlation between Elijah, the Centurion, St Paul and Jesus?  It is about the 'character of faith' as it functions under Christ's mandate and authority. In the catholic and Christian ancient tradition, authority is given and not seized. It is for the good of others not the domination of them. Elijah was given authority by Yahweh-God, the Centurion by Caesar, Paul by Christ and Jesus by His Father God.  I function under Bishop Scott as does Father Richard and Deacon Gerry. Children function under authority of parents who may delegate it to teachers, pastors, cross walk guards and coaches.  God made it that way.  Why did God do this? Is God about control, not at all.  Scripture says ""For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."  (Galatians 5:1 )  We don't call parents "slave drivers".  What are they?  Perhaps shepherds but more that shepherds.  Jesus calls himself the "Good Shepherd", he said: the Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  It was Elijah who laid his life on the line for God, Paul who laid down his life and eventually gave it for Jesus Christ, the Centurion for his slave and Jesus for the human race....for whom do we lay down our lives?  It is under Biblical witness is that under authority that we find freedom!  God is not the author of confusion.

1 Corinthians 14:33 says: "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—."

We the baptized are commissioned by God to be his Christians (little Christs)  in the world.  Nevertheless God honors our wills: if we refuse God won't make us but we'll miss the blessings he has in store.  Each day is a new opportunity to re-claim Jesus Christ as your Savior, Lord, Redeemer and Friend.  Sunday is not a vacation into the presence of God before we return to a world that is offended by him or forgets him.  Where we go so goes the name of Christ.  Will we open the door to the Holy Spirit to prompt us to meddle?  Meddle in LOVE.  Love is hard to resist or be offended by. ... Meddle for the sake of others: children, elderly, lonely, forgotten, unwanted, sick, unloved and unlovely.  Seek to love as Jesus loves and let him love others through you!

In the lessons today, the Israelites were restored (at least for the moment) to the God of Israel, the Galatians to the right understanding of Jesus and the Roman slave to life.  God is about restoration but in God's way which is often not ours.  It is an unending part of the Christian life: how do we function under God's loving authority for the restoration of all things in Christ.

 Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus: "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ."


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