(House Church 7.21.2019 // Proper 11 - Year C - Track 2: Genesis 18:1-10a, Psalm 15, Colossians 1:15-28, Luke 10:38-42)
The Liturgy: Almighty God, fountain of wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our limited frame in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully provide those things for which we in fear dare not or in our ignorance know not to ask. Amen.
Old Testament - Genesis 18:1-10
The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, "My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on-- since you have come to your servant." So they said, "Do as you have said." And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, "Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes." Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
They said to him, "Where is your wife Sarah?" And he said, "There, in the tent." Then one said, "I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son."
The Response - Psalm 15
1 Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?
who may abide upon your holy hill?
2 Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right, who speaks the truth from his heart.
3 There is no guile upon his tongue;
he does no evil to his friend;
he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.
4 In his sight the wicked is rejected,
but he honors those who fear the Lord.
5 He has sworn to do no wrong
and does not take back his word.
6 He does not give his money in hope of gain,
nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
7 Whoever does these things
shall never be overthrown.
The Epistle - Colossians 1:15-28
Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers-- all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him-- provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.
I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God's commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
The Gospel - Luke 10:38-42
As Jesus and his disciples went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."
NOTES + THOUGHTS:
*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?
Lord, who may dwell in your [presence]..?
It is easy to read Psalm 15 a few different ways. Is it descriptive - speaking about and actual person or administration that embodies the sort of humanity the passage extols. Is it aspirational - pointing out the goal of personal formation, namely to become such a person. Does the passage describe how things are or how the could / should be? Since Israel had many ancient leaders, few of whom this verse could be descriptive of - it is highly likely that the Psalm was written subversively to point out the lessor virtues of one ruler or another who did not live unto these qualities.
Discuss: The Various Biblical standard of success and what is pleasing to God were often set aside when there were deemed inconvenient to the economy or military goals of an ancient administration. How does the Bible’s subversive quality and voice inform our own political working as people of faith?
…through Christ, God was pleased to reconcile
to himself *ALL* things…
Often when Christians get in dog fights about proper theology - what we are really arguing about is who gets to hold God’s leash - who gets to claim God as the mascot for their particular concern. But Colossians makes it clear that God is not the mascot of any tribe, country, group, or even religion. Paul sees God not as a little tribal god we carry around and control - rather God is beyond our control (in fact he is the one in control of everything - per Col 1) and our actions are evaluated by his own standards with no preferential treatment (which Israel expected and the church does too).
Rather than special treatment, or a powerful warrior God, we are given a cosmic Christ. Reading Colossians we find Paul wrestling to point us beyond our small view of an anthropomorphized deity - a sort of Superman who lived in the sky - toward something far more vast - a Cosmic Christ who existed before and beyond the this world and all worlds, who is beyond the sky and ground, who is beyond the visible plane with its political powers and ideologies. Paul sees this Cosmic Christ as the source and sustainer of all things - the very energy holding all things together.
This Cosmic Christ brings all things together (because where else would they exist) - and invites all into a unity of being. While perhaps most read this passage and still imagine an embodied being sitting somewhere and ruling the universe - the passage has led others to imagine God as *being* itself. Not a single being - but the force of being. Paul seems to hint at this possibility too - *being* itself brought the universe into being and was later embodied in Jesus - who helped us to better understand the power and being that binds us all together. Jesus ministry, along with with Paul’s, focused on bring together all people together and putting an end to the petty and childish rivalries, hierarchies, and divisions that caused so much pain and violence.
While many understand Jesus’ death as appeasing God’s anger enough to allow him to forgive humanity for this sinfulness - this might be the opposite of what Paul has written. Humans since Adam + Eve have rejected God’s influence on our lives. In our rage against the divine, we have killed God’s prophets and messengers and eventually even God’s own Son. Jesus bloody death on the cross allowed us to see, finally, our rage and anger for what it truly is and where it truly leads - the murder of Jesus, the innocent one. We were estranged and hostile toward God, but found in the forgiveness and love of Christ, though crucified and horribly disfigured by our violence, a God who understands our pain and absorbs our violence without retaliation. Christ revealed God’s heart perfectly when he died rather than harm those who hated him.
Paul was so moved by this act of God, that he joined Jesus in non-violent missionary work - declaring the death of God at our hands, his resurrection and continued love for us. He “completed in his body” the work of sacrificial non-violent love in his day and we are invited to experience and join in this movement of Christ today.
Why do humans attempt to leash God to their agendas and ideologies? Is there a way to resist this temptation?
How do we learn to see the injustices that we are part of but do not yet see?
Where was Christ and what was he up to before he became a baby?
In Paul’s flow of thought in Colossians, did God need Jesus to die in order for God to forgive humans, or did humans need Jesus to die in order to finally see God’s love?
“…you are worried + distracted by many things…”
It’s possible to get so caught up “serving God” that we cease to be present to God all around us. The Bible is full of stories of burning bushes that took people 40 years to see and the Gospels contend that the God was incarnate in our midst in the person of Jesus and most of humanity didn’t even know of this divine visitation. How much do we miss when we allow ourselves to sleep in our daily routines and distractions and forget to look up, breathe deep, and take in this miracle of life that we all share.
Who do you identify with in the story of Mary and Martha? Why? Do you even get frustrated when other people don’t pull their weight in the Church
How can we let the example of Mary inspire us to keep straining ahead toward maturity and growth?
How do we keep from getting so caught up in serving God or doing good things - that we no longer save space to pay attention to the flavor and smell and sounds of one and only life we are living?
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.
Christ Jesus, creator, substance and sustainer of all life, generously poor out your peace on your people. Help us to move from hostility toward you and our neighbors, to love, grace and peace. Give us the courage to join you in your work of rescuing and restoring the world, even when it means joining you in your suffering and bring your church to full maturity.