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Sunday, September 1, 2013

15th Sunday after Pentecost

The Revised Common Lectionary provided us with three diverse readings (Jer 2:4-13; Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16; Lk 14:1, 7-14) which provide food for thought for those on the journey of faith.

The Gospel at first glance seems almost pedestrian. Jesus was at a dinner party on a Sabbath. We are told "they were watching Him closely." Jesus under constant scrutiny because He challenged the authorities.As they are "watching" Jesus, He is also watching them. Finally, he notes that they were all tying to get the seats of honor at the banquet. Ouch! Jesus nailed it. He recognizes our love affair with honor and glory. Our culture is smitten with celebrity. We love accolades. Any one who plays sports is called "a star" and the words "best" or "greatest" or "awesome" roll off the tongue so frequently that one is really stumped what to call anything which is truly superior. Feeding our egos is a preoccupation; Jesus thinks such silliness is worthy of comment. Perhaps God takes a dimmer view of our nonsense than we might think.

Hebrews gives a series of exhortations. I think in the past I have written that some scholars perceive it to be a homily rather than a letter. The demands are basic fare for any successful church: Mutual love, show hospitality, care for people in prison, honor marriage, do not love money too much, imitate the lives of faithful church leaders in the past. Then in a flourish he concludes: through Jesus offer praise. A pleasing sacrifice to God is offered by one who does good and shares what  s/he has with others.

Most of us have little contact with prisoners. (We are involved in a cookie ministry at our parish. It is a small token but if they like cookies as much as I do then it is well received.) Marriage today is being redefined and that is not, in my mind, without some costs. Loving money is the besetting sin of most folks. Doing good and sharing, is something we were supposed to learn in kindergarten. Most of us still struggle with that as well. Once again, some of this is regular life stuff. Even so, God seems to care and we all can see areas for improvement here.

Jeremiah's words are typical of his constant concern. God asks, why do you break covenant with Me? From the priest to the man on the street, Jeremiah identifies the failure of all people to hold up their end of the covenant. My view of God and grace is much informed by Jeremiah. God saves by grace (Exodus) but has covenant expectations (works). The judgment is hard: the twin sins, two evils, are relevant today as well. You forsake ME the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for yourselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.

The double edge: losing God we find the alternative is not life giving. It "doesn't hold water" and therefore we perish. So often people hold faith in God to a criteria to which they do not hold their own (un)beliefs. The alternatives are cracked. Some of our discontent is a function of that frustration.

We prayed today, among other things, that God would "graft in our hearts the love of His name." That is worthy of repetition. There is probably no reason to think that loving God less will produce greater abundance in our lives or in the world. In light of that, the growing indifference does not bode well, especially as thirsty people become increasingly disenchanted with their cracked cisterns. Sitting with the readings is a splendid way to enrich our Sunday afternoon...

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