Proper 7 - 2nd Sunday After Pentecost (Year C - 6.23.19)

“These are a smoke in my nostrils,
a fire that burns all day long….”

(House Church 6.23.2019 // Year C -Track 2, Proper 7)

THE LITURGY

Lord, provoke in us perpetual love and reverence, for you never fail to help those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving­kindness; through Jesus Christ, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Open Prayer:


The First Reading: Psalm 22:18-27

18 Be not far away, O Lord;
you are my strength; hasten to help me.

19 Save me from the sword,
“my life from the power of the dog.

20 Save me from the lion's mouth,
my wretched body from the horns of wild bulls.

21 I will declare your Name to my brethren; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.

22 Praise the Lord, you that fear him;
stand in awe of him, O offspring of Israel;
all you of Jacob's line, give glory.

23 For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty; neither does he hide his face from them; 
but when they cry to him he hears them.

24 My praise is of him in the great assembly; I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.

25 The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
and those who seek the Lord shall praise him:
"May your heart live for ever!"

26 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

27 For kingship belongs to the Lord;
he rules over the nations.

The Response: Isaiah 65:1-9

I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek me.

I said, "Here I am, here I am,"
to a nation that did not call on my name.

I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good,
following their own devices;

a people who provoke me to my face continually,
sacrificing in gardens and offering incense on bricks;

who sit inside tombs, and spend the night in secret places;

who eat swine's flesh,
with broth of abominable things in their vessels;

who say, "Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you."

These are a smoke in my nostrils,
a fire that burns all day long.

See, it is written before me:
I will not keep silent, but I will repay;
I will indeed repay into their laps
their iniquities and their ancestors' iniquities together, says the Lord;

because they offered incense on the mountains
and reviled me on the hills,

I will measure into their laps
full payment for their actions.

Thus says the Lord:
As the wine is found in the cluster,
and they say, "Do not destroy it,
for there is a blessing in it,"
so I will do for my servants' sake,
and not destroy them all.

I will bring forth descendants from Jacob,
and from Judah inheritors of my mountains;
my chosen shall inherit it,
and my servants shall settle there.

The Epistle: Galatians 3:23-29

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.

The Gospel: Luke 8:26-39

Jesus and his disciples arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me" -- for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, "What is your name?" He said, "Legion"; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

NOTES + THOUGHTS:

Scripture Discussion: 

*Liturgy means “the work of the people.” We enter into this work when we enact the scriptures together by reading and discussing them and allowing our lives to be formed by Christ and each other. Like a potluck, we each bring something to the discussion, and there is always enough.

  • Which passage jumped out at you the most? Why?

  • What thoughts / questions do you have?

  • What connections do you see between the readings + life?

  • What action or change do they invite?

  • Why was it included in the Bible?

  • Is there any disconnect between the narrators perspective and our perspective as modern readers?

Psalm 22:23

For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty… but when they cry to him he hears them.

- Write a communal confession based on Psalm 22. What do *WE* - the large communal American *WE* need to confess before God and the Poor when this spotlight of this Psalm is shone upon our country and churches currently? 

- Repentance often included public displays of “sackcloth and ashes” to demonstrate a communities sorrow over wrongdoing. What might our public expression of corporate sorrow be? 

Isaiah 65

What if Isaiah 65 was God’s word for America in 2019: 

"Here I am, here I am,” - I said to a nation that did not call on my name.

I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good,

following their own devices (racism, sexism, homophobia, arrogance, sexual assault, demonizing the outsider, oppressing the immigrant, caging children, threatening their global enemies with destruction, raining fire and fury on any who do not bow before them, lying, boasting, scapegoating, and putting a finger on the scales of Justice);

a people who provoke me to my face continually,

sacrificing [to their celebrities, politicians,  at rallies] and spend the night in secret places [watching newscasters who] eat swine's flesh,

with broth of abominable things in their vessels;

who say, "Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you."

“These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all day long….”


- American faith has tended to focus on personal sins (premarital sex, lust, masturbation, lying, cheating) rather than militarism, injustice,  poverty, and other systems of oppression. Why? What impact has that had on faith development in our country? 

Galatians:

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

There is no passage more significant in understanding how the Gospel transforms culture than Galatians 3. If the Gospel is being presented clearly, it will overturn even the deepest held cultural classifications and rank. The low will be lifted up and the elevated will be made even. In Christ, all are children of God and none are unclean or slaves. All have the full rights, there is  no distinction to gender, sexual orientation, class, or nationality,  - and that probably just the beginning. 

One struggle with this passage is that even when Christians can see that in the past Jesus broke down cultural barriers, they see it as a one time correction vs an ongoing trajectory toward unity and inclusion. It was *ONLY* about Jews and Gentiles rather than Jews and Gentiles being only the beginning. 

-  In Christ the distinctions break down between class and race and gender and even family. What groups might Paul have listed today in your view? 

- What might a community living out Galatians 3 look like?

Luke:

As Jesus stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him.

Demons are funny in the Gospels. Nowhere else in the Bible are they so present and part of the action. No explanation is really given for them, they are just suddenly there - and then they mostly disappear again after Jesus death.  Many struggle with what to make of this, both in the Biblical accounts and in modern life. There is no way to do adequate handling of Demons in this timeframe - however, a few things can be observed:

1. Possession can be equated to desire. Eve, Cain, Saul, David, Solomon, Ahab and more were possessed. Sometimes with passion, sometimes with murder, sometimes with jealousy, or envy. But a desire possessed them and they acted accordingly. In fact, perhaps the dominant message of the Bible is that everyone will be possessed by something. Jesus life and resurrection provide an alternative to these enslaving and dehumanizing possessions, namely to be possessed by Christ - which is also to be possessed by the Spirit and love. If we cannot avoid possession, the important question is what we will be possessed by: Greed, envy, lust, self or love, peace, joy, and gratitude. 

2. In today’s culture, we are inundated by desire without mercy. It is human to want what others have, and from morning until night we are shown things and services that promise to possess us with happiness and joy, but never deliver. This relentless inundation of supercharged desire has left our culture with more deep dysfunction than ever and we are both captive to it and responsible for it.

-  What truths only present themselves more clearly in a literal interpretation and what truths come into sharper focus the story is taken as a metaphor? Can it be both?

- Which is possessed (choose all that apply): The crowd, the pig, or the demoniac? What are they possessed by?

- What role did the demoniac play in the community? Why is the crowd upset when he can no longer play this role? What new role will he play in the community Jesus sent him back into? 

- Reflect on the following statements:

“What is your name?”
“Return to your home”
“Declare how much God has done for you.”

What might each mean for you or your house church today?

Eucharist Invitation: 

This is the table of Christ. 

Here we remember God’s love + acceptance for humans. 

Here we remember our connection with all humankind. 

All are invited to come and eat

You who have much faith +  you who have little. 

You who have been here often + you who are new. 

You who have tried to follow + you who have failed. Come, because Christ has invited us here together.

Benediction:

God, Keep our anger from becoming meanness. 

Keep our sorrow from collapsing into self-pity. 

Keep our hearts soft enough to keep breaking. 

Keep our anger turned towards justice, not cruelty. 

Remind us that all of this, every bit of it, is for love. 

Keep me fiercely kind. Amen.

-  Adapted from Laura Jean Truman (@LauraJeanTruman)