Sunday, August 20, 2017

sermon Notes-aug. 20 Gen. 45, Mt. 15, Rom. 11

August 20-All of our passages deal with the boundary line of inside and outside, center and periphery.Gen 45, Joseph finds forgiveness as he sees a design, a divine design in his suffering and in his being exalted position in the government.  He tested them for a change in attitude and behavior. They who could not speak a peaceful word to him, or  who could not even deign to speak with him, now converse with him. No one recognizes him, just as we sometimes do not recognize someone when they are out of the place where we normally encounter them.He greets Benjamin, the other son of the favored wife, his mother, who died in childbirth with him In the U.S. over 800 women die in childbirth every year) After all of those  years of slavery, of prison, of rising to great height-the tears are of memory, of loss, of delight in seeing the brothers changed-he is able to forgive in part because he has placed it in a divine design that  worked through even the worst of human behavior toward a different end.Joseph responds to Judah’s recitation of the devastating effect on Jacob for the assumed death of Joseph-Somehow he  has come to forgiveness in seeing it as part of god’s providential care for the entire family- accept it as the weaving of a fabric of a life in full-He had seen a change in the brothers vis a vis Benjamin v. himself-God transformed their hatred into a mechanism for preserving life.They bring back clothes. He has switched from a focus on their terrible wrong to how /God could use a terrible wrong for a higher purpose, even when that higher purpose will help the brothers who so wronged him.Joseph weeps for a variety of reasons; all of the overwhelm him.I wonder how Joseph would have reacted if he did not detect a change in his brothers, especially in their treatment of young Benjamin (remember he is the brother whose mother, Joseph’s mother, died in childbirth). Don Henley-hear of the matter-


Mt. 15:10-28 (clean/unclean). Here Jesus would not say a word to the woman, at first.She will not be silenced. She has the courage of the desperate mother.It appears that Jesus is keeping his work within ethnic and geographical bounds. Jesus responds with an insult. She w8ill not let go. This is one of the very few times jesus is bested in a verbal joust.Here Jesus learns about ethnic favoritism in the face of God’s expansive beneficence.An outsider becomes an insider.This woman will not let go, until she receives a healing for her daughter.

Forgiveness starts with someone on the inside of our lives. They are pushed, or place themselves, on the outside of our relationship circles, but they may well occupy a large amount of psychic space within.To forgive means to widen the circle of our viewpoint beyond the wrong committed.It means to make very small the circle of revenge.

"The depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!" (11:33). God is beyond human ability to know his ways. God is God. There is nothing in all creation that can call the potter into question concerning his judgments and ways.Toward other faiths as well? Has God really rejected everyone? Every day the news seems ot bring some fresh new hell.We insist on dividing ourselves up in discrete bit and pieces of our common humanity in favor of isolated shards. We can be better than that. Worship provides the ground for the path forward.

Column on genetic Repair

For someone my age, the developments in biology are astounding. Around the time I was born, Watson and Crick unraveled the double helix of DNA itself. Over time, the human genetic code, that sequence of arranging two pairs of material, the bases termed A-G-C-T was isolated. Now, scientists edited the gene sequence in an embryo that would eliminate a heart ailment that can suddenly take a life.

Our cells have an immune function to attack bacteria. An enzyme allows us to use this function to edit particular bits of DNA sequence in the future life of a cell. We can begin to  edit out the piece of genetic sequence that causes some diseases. This could touch sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, and some cancers down the road.

Science fiction has imagined this. The field of Christian ethics has faced it repeatedly. There, we rarely get rigid categories but ways to approach the issue, as we try to use a variety of tools to make good ethical decisions. Given our limitations, our decisions cannot be expected to be perfect, but appropriate and fitting to circumstances.

Part of me is thrilled. It continues the long attempt to bring healing. The Rotary foresees an end to polio over the globe soon. We will not need treatments for many genetic ailments down the road, and some may appear within my lifespan.

When I was a boy, I had twin classmates. Their father ignored what was called Salk shots, and their older sister contracted polio. We will soon have it in our power to eliminate plagues of the ages.

I distrust the playing god assumption. It tends to shut down analysis. At the same time, I do fear human husbandry. I also realize that we are in some exceptionally dangerous territory. I trust that regulations on this procedure will be careful. I also know that we can take something good and warp it. In 1997 the Vatican was concerned that technical assistance undercut the dignity of being human. On the other hand,  ethicist Ted Peters, around the same time, argued that we should be more concerned about being human than playing god. We are more than a mere collection of genetic material. It is obvious that we have capacities to bring healing to the roughness and randomness of creation.

Human enhancements will pose a social challenge. Given our propensity for wanting to rank people in hierarchies, I could easily imagine a eugenic divide arising. I have been to ball games with children. I have little doubt that some parents would be willing to try to engineer a child to be a superior athlete.

In the car, I listen to NPR, old people’s rock music, and sports radio. The analysis, the unending analysis, of the Cardinals is quite sophisticated at times and goes into depth. If only we were willing to go into this sort of depth over some of the ethical issues posed by the advent of genetic manipulation.

The trouble is that we can measure batting averages more easily that trying to assess possible risks to the future genetic makeup in gene manipulation. Prudence, an ancient virtue, is called for in our work. The tower of Babel story tells of reaching a tower to the gate of god. We may need to come to terms with the length of lifespan when we could sustain it for years beyond the expected life span of today.


reflections: Week of august 20

Sunday-Ps.133 is a short prayer.Aversion of it is on 241 in our hymnbook. I think it is a fine prayer for grace before meals. Consider writing a version of it with emphasis on the healing power of unity and freshness.

Monday-Most of us prefer easy answers. But we are invited to live in a place of holy tension, depending on God’s grace to show us when tolerance and patience towards others is called for, and when we are being called to noncooperation and resistance in the face of evil.Br. David Vryhof

Tuesday-God’s grace consists precisely in this, that he wants to let himself be won by humanity, that he places himself, so to speak, into human hands. God wants to come to his world, but he wants to come to it through men and women. This is the mystery of our existence, the superhuman chance of humankind.Source: The Way of Man

Wednesday-Jim Forest-If I cannot find the face of Jesus in the face of those whom I regard as enemies, if I cannot find him in the unbeautiful and damaged, if I cannot find him in those who have the “wrong ideas,” if I cannot find him in the poor and the defeated, then how will I find him in bread and wine or in the life after death?

Thursday-"In our arrogance, we presume our enemies to be God's enemies. We presume our victories to be God's victories. But God is not on our side. God does not take sides. God is simply with us, with all of us, even when we are not with one another."~~ Rev. Traci Blackmon

Friday-In Christ we're drawn toward a radical realignment, a radical reorientation. The Spirit of Truth draws us toward greater understanding of the human mind and heart using all the tools available to us.-Br. Mark Brown

Saturday- It is so easy to simply get too busy to grow. It is so easy to commit ourselves to this century’s demand for product and action until the product consumes us and the actions exhaust us, and we can no longer even remember why we set out to do them in the first place.Source: Wisdom Distilled from the Daily





Sunday, August 13, 2017

Week of August 13 Reflections

Sunday-Ps . 105 has different sections selected for today. V. 16-22 recalls the story of Joseph.He rises from nothing to a ruler, due to his words coming true,and he becomes a teacher of wisdom. Who has taught you wisdom?
Monday-Making judgments about other people is something we do naturally and often. It is so easy - we affix a label, and we respond accordingly. The challenge for us is to resist our tendency to label, to remain open to the one who stands before us, to look for the image of God in them. Every human being bears this image, without exception.-Br. David Vryhof


Tuesday-If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say both as a novelist and as a preacher it would be something like this: Listen to your life.

Wednesday-Nouwen's "Return of the Prodigal Son." This phrase really spoke to me, especially in light of the current national and world events. "...for God, numbers never seem to matter. Who knows whether the world is kept from destruction because of one, two, or three people who have continued to pray when the rest of humanity has lost hope and dissipated itself?"

Thursday-There is something of Mary and Martha inside each one of us: the active, busy, and distracted, as well as the reflective and contemplative. But our modern life so stresses the active virtues that we are more in danger of forgetting the need for spiritual replenishment, for practicing the presence of God, for sitting quietly and still at the feet of Jesus: just being with him in quietness and stillness, in order to renew our energy and our spirit.-Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Friday-Pope Francis-Irenaeus [taught] that the glory of God is seen in a living human being.  Let the light of that glory shine so brightly that everyone may come to recognize the inestimable value of all human life. Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.

Saturday-Kathleen Norris-Worship grounds me again in the real world of God’s creation, dislodging me from whatever world I have imagined for myself. I have come to believe that when we despair of praise, when the wonder of creation and our place in it are lost to us, it’s often because we’ve lost sight of our true role as creatures – we have tried to do too much, pretending to be in such control of things that we are indispensable.




August 13 Sermon Notes-gen. 37, Mt. 14

August 13-        Gen.37,family  hatred in a blended family. They could not speak a word to him. Joseph's brothers, meanwhile, have deceived their father. They have taken Joseph's special coat and dipped it in the blood of a slaughtered goat, then sent the coat to Jacob (37:31). Jacob draws the obvious conclusion that Joseph is dead, killed by a wild animal. It is worth noting that Jacob is deceived by his sons just as he deceived his own elderly father. And in both cases, a slaughtered goat and a garment are the instruments of deception (27:15-16). As we saw in the story of Jacob and Laban, Jacob's actions come back to haunt him. Yet, God continues to be at work in the lives of Jacob and his family.Schifferdecker-Instead of seeing him as a brat, see him as the victim of plotting and gossip-notice where he stays--the family tradition of secrets , deception      , and playing favorites continues-the robe is colored, long-sleeved, spangled, fancy-he is to inquire of their welfare.Is jacob setting him up>Judah sells him to the cousins-the children of outcast Ishmael to make their brother a slave-Judah does this.the church looks more like a  squabbling family than the outpost of God’s way in the world.


Mt. 14:22 walk on the water-works The disciples are far from the land, and the boat is being beaten -- or, more literally, being tormented -- by the waves. Jesus is not there.it is the early morning hours (3 a.m. to 6 a.m.), while it is still dark, that Jesus makes his appearance.The disciples, though, do not initially recognize Jesus in the midst of the chaos. They have been alone with the threatening waves for hours. They are probably tired from being up all night. In the midst of this crisis when their energy reserves are spent, Jesus reveals himself to them.In this exhausted state with the roar of the waves and the spray of the sea drenching their boat, they mistake the Lord of creation for a phantom. Given the common perception of the sea as the locus of evil and chaos, it is hard to blame them for initially mistaking the figure of Jesus for a specter of death. After all, it is they who have rowed into the middle of evil’s realm, and the waves are indeed attacking them. (hint of resurrection?)

Over their cries of fear, Jesus calls to them, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear” (15:27). Jesus reveals himself -- not simply as Jesus, their teacher, but as “I AM. hoffman-A ship was one of the earliest symbols for Christianity, and this story indicates why it was attractive: when surrounded by adversity, safety and salvation are experienced in the church with Jesus in its midst. But remember that a ship is not a static symbol. It is a vehicle used to get somewhere. They wanted to get to the other side to minister to those people there. So, leave walking on water to Jesus. That ship which is the church is where we want to be, and it can provide the way for us to get to other places, so that disciples of the Son of God can be moving throughout the land!.Communion follows the feeding  of the 5000 last week. It is no guarantee that storms will not occur. In ancient times it was called the medicine of immortality. The great storm we all face is our mortality. In this sacrament, jesus says to each one of us: it is I; do not be afraid.Jesus speaks a word of greeting and peace to each one of us this morning.
sermon Notes-Gen. 37, Mt.14

Sunday, August 6, 2017

August 6 Sermon Notes Gen. 32, Mt. 14

August 6-Gen. 32:22, In the second volume of his political biography of Lincoln Sidney Blumenthal has the title Wrestling with his Angel” and even uses the Scripture as an epigraph.Jacob is returning home, but he does so after tricking Laban and was pursued by him. He is preparing to meet the brother whom he cheated. He sent out messengers, and they report Ea sau is coming with a party of 400 men.Jacob’s encounter wrestling with  a man/angel/God is a stage in transformation. Jacob will not let go, as the light threatens the struggle. Barbara Brown Taylor says that in the nocturnal struggle he catches a whiff of heaven. she holding on to something he deserves, something he was given? Jacob emerges with a limp-he will have a constant reminder of it being dislocated, but still he is able to push on-if he could prevail in that mysterious wrestling, he can face Esau, his wives, and most difficult himself. plays with the name of the stream as liminal space with the nocturnal struggle and the limp but he prevailed-is this a rebirth? Is a false self displaced? Prelude to encounter with his past and the brother he cheated and sought to overtake. Hebrew puns off the name repeatedly-rebirth perhaps-shall it be built around flaws or strengths?is it a mask, a script of it-is it seeing his true self?- (see the real me, the Who) displacement is going on- Jabbok and emptying out as negative or positive? So Jacob gets the new name Wrestler with god, but also a title the One who Prevailed. His new name will the name of an entire people- a people who contend/wrestle with god, a most close relationship. Jacob moves toward his future; he no longer hides or tries to trick his way out of  a quandary.He prevails as he will not let go of a blessing.


Mt. 14:13-Jesus wrestles with issues of anxiety and scarcity in our passage.This is right after he is told that Herod has killed John the Baptist. Jesus want to go out by himself, but the crowds pursue him..We continue from last week’s reading a small start cvna be the source of astonishing results. We move from enough bread of 125 people to enough to feed 5,000.You can tell that the gospel is directed at the needs of the poor with its repeated notes of concern for having enough to eat, most notably in the Lord’s prayer itself: give us this daily our daily bread , or enough bread to make it  for today.
traditions concerned with the establishment of God’s empire in all its fullness depict this coming age in terms of abundant food and feasting for all. Ezekiel envisages an age when “the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase. They shall be secure on their soil … when I break the bars of their yoke, and save them from the hands of those who enslaved them … I will provide for them a splendid vegetation so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land … ” (Ezekiel 34:27-29). This age of food supply comes when God breaks the self-satisfying rule of imperial powers.Jesus wrestles with the force of nature. Jesus wrestles with the cherished belief of scarcity and anxiety.Jesus d maps his assets before attacking the problem.Jesus wrestles with the desire of others to send them away. Jesus wrestles with his need for self care and care for  others.Next week we have communion. Again we bless break give a little bit that becomes a spiritual feast.

week of august 6 reflections

August 6-Sunday-Ps. 17:1-7 is a prayer of  desperate frustration. It assumes that goodness should be rewarded in this life. This is an implicit bargain many of us hold when faced with trouble. What are your prayers concerning adversaries?

Monday-Anna Mow-The big obstacle to God’s grace is bitterness. Some people complain because they are not blessed by God as others have been. They do not realize that in thinking of themselves, they open the door to bitterness and close it to God’s grace.

Tuesday-Donald McMinn-(1) While it’s okay to periodically get angry, don’t be an angry person—one who is predisposed to being upset and vexed. If you have a reputation of being an angry person, your anger is out of control. (2) Sometimes we need to “drop an issue” because it’s just not important enough to stall the day. Carol Tavris says, “For some of the large indignities of life, the best remedy is direct action. For the small indignities, the best remedy is a Charlie Chaplin movie. The hard part is knowing the difference.”


Wednesday- In our worship we strive to worship the God who is both with us in the most intimate way – but is also beyond us, dwelling in the beauty of holiness.-Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Thursday-The future of the person who turns to God is not determined by the past, and therefore neither is the future of humanity. God’s forgiveness creates the possibility of an entirely new future. The cross breaks the cycle of violence.Trocme

Friday-The word grace appears 113 times in the New Testament, portraying a broad landscape of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit. Apart from this "particular emphasis to the fact that through grace the church lives by grace," gratitude is bound to be narrow, often constricted to grudging duty.From A Pastor’s Life

Saturday-This "love affair with life" has its risks, of course. But the older I get, the more I understand that the biggest risk is to play it safe—hunkering down and hiding out, missing the chance to experience life's fullness as we move from mystery to mystery.To paraphrase Joseph Campbell, "People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's true. I think what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, of actually feeling the rapture of being alive. That's what it's all about." Ira Groff