Is Respect a Right or a Benefit?

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Lectionary Reading: Jeremiah 1:4-10 (NRSV)

Jeremiah is called at a very young age. He is worried that he will not be taken seriously.

I know how he feels.

When I started out as a pastor, I grew a beard before taking my first appointment. After being there for a while, I shaved it off. One of our parishioners smiled at me and exclaimed, “Oh, you look just like a little boy!”

I heard lots of comments from people I met outside of our church along the lines of “You’re too young to be a pastor.”

It may be that they believed that old pastors were just hatched and came out of the egg with wrinkles, grey hair and life experience!

It has been my experience in life (and my guess is that this is your experience too) that some people have automatically afforded me respect and others have waited until I proved myself.

There are many in the world with the attitude, “You’ve got to earn my respect.”

This is likely the world in which Jeremiah lived and the reason for his trepidation. Who is going to listen to me?

I understand the view of earning respect and have done things to prove myself in the eyes of others so that my voice will be heard. After all, a preacher that no one pays attention to is doing a lot of preparation for nothing!

But as I think about this idea of earned respect, it makes me realize that we may often be telling the world that I will disrespect you until you deserve otherwise.

This is not a healthy way for us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

As I mentioned that I have experienced those that have given respect and those from whom I had to earn it, I can tell you with which I prefer to deal!

Respect for others should be a fundamental thing that is our starting place. What if we adopted the attitude that people are to be respected until they prove otherwise? And even then, it may be that we disrespect behavior rather than people.

One argument for earned respect is that it sharpens us. Would I have been as effective if I didn’t have to prove myself? This may be important for positions of authority that don’t have prior certifications. Leadership is often this way in that we want to follow someone who is going to be effective.

So while I may reserve judgment on a leader based on his or her ability and track record, I will still fundamentally respect them as a person. This means allowing them a voice until they do or say something that would be harmful to those they encounter. Fortunately, I live in a country that is set up to allow the people being governed to have a voice through our representative democracy. This country fundamentally respects its citizens through the Bill of Rights.

This philosophy was not shaped in a vacuum and comes out of the Christian idea that all people are deserving of respect and love simply because they exist. As I mentioned, our behavior is not always to be commended but we continue to respect human beings. This is why we treat prisoners humanely.

So as we explore this passage from Jeremiah, we’ll discover that the message God gives him to relate is not one that will be popular or well-received. No wonder he was nervous! Are you sure you want me to do this God? I hope you’ll join us for worship as we reflect upon Jeremiah’s call story together!

In Christ,

Sam

Follow Sam’s Blog at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com. Photo by Aaron Tait via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.

FIRST KIDS TUTORING MINISTRY – SUNSET ELEMENTARY

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This FUMC Edmond ministry assists children from Kindergarten through 3rd grade that are struggling in reading at Sunset Elementary. Tutors work with children one-on-one, for 30 minutes, one time per week. Tutors are provided materials and training specific to the grade level they will tutor.

Training for this year will be held on Monday, September 23:

• 9:00-11:00 – Kindergarten

• 11:30-1:30 – 1st Grade

• 1:30-3:30 – 2nd/3rd Grade

We would love to have you join us in this very rewarding ministry. For more information you may call Sherri Brown, 405 833-2583 or email her at sherribrown56@me.com. If you are ready to volunteer, you may sign-up here:

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Jesus Christ, Prince of Division??

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Lectionary Scripture: Luke 12:49-56 (NRSV)

What was your family like growing up? Did you experience an easy childhood where everyone got along with one another? Or was it more difficult? Was there a lot of conflict and chaos?

Likely it was somewhere in the middle.

Family systems operate on cycles. They achieve a type of balance (theorists call this homeostasis) that may or may not be healthy. Sometimes there are larger family gatherings that upset the applecart. Old systems that have been escaped through family members moving out or moving away sometimes rear their ugly heads and you have heated arguments arise.

I’ve heard people tell me as a pastor, “I’m never going back to Thanksgiving dinner as long as it’s at so-and-so’s house.” I’ve also heard of people cutting off their relatives from communication because their relationship is unhealthy or emotionally abusive. Yet at the same time we mourn the loss of contact with people with whom we’ve grown up. We may even feel somewhat guilty about making a specific stand with relatives even if we believe it is for the best.

I grew up in a home that included a family business when I was a teenager. All of us worked the business - both parents, my older siblings and me. Money was tight and the stress of making ends meet was always present. Harsh words were often spoken between my father and brother on a cyclical basis. I often felt the need to play peacemaker between them. The words said in anger did not help relieve the stress all of us felt. Eventually, they would make up and we would continue to work together. This lasted for years until my parents retired.

When I received my psychological evaluation as a part of my preparation for ministry (all candidates go through this!), I was labeled as a peacemaker as a large part of my identity.

So when I read today’s text, I am at a loss. It doesn’t sound like what Jesus would say! We more readily identify Jesus as the Prince of Peace rather than a cause of division. When we identify Jesus with service and love, our reading for Sunday seems to run contrary to those characteristics.

Before preaching my last sermon, I mentioned that our scripture was a part of the genre of eschatology or end times theology. We see that continue in this reading. Luke in particular relayed the words and deeds of Jesus in an orderly fashion to share specific theological points. Luke wrote these things in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome which directly affected the leadership within the early church.

In a way, I believe that Luke is trying to normalize the stress and conditions that the early church would have been under. The violence and upheaval that they experienced were seen in the light of the Gospel as something to be expected.

This may actually be comforting when we are going through difficulty. If we experience family conflict and then find out that most families go through this, it can actually help relieve the stress we are under.

We do know that our relationship with Jesus when taken seriously changes our lives. We also know that changes are disrupting to the balance and patterns we already regularly experience. So in a very legitimate way, Jesus does cause division for those who would like for us to remain unchanged!

This Sunday, we will explore this passage further in worship. As I read it again, my first instinct was to say “let’s choose an easier passage to work with!” But I find that the greater fruit may lie with tackling the tougher scriptures. Luke included these for our benefit after all! I hope you’ll join us as we discover what that may be!

In Christ,

Sam

Follow Sam’s Blog at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com. Photo by Thomas Halfmann via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.

New Handbell Choir Coming September of 2019!

Have you ever wished to be a part of handbells at First UMC? Have you ever seen the bells play and think it would be fun to do that? Perhaps what has held you back is that you may not have music experience or may think you wouldn’t catch on to how to play them. This fall, beginning on Wednesday September 4 and running with the Wednesday night programming schedule, there will be a new handbell choir forming! This group requires no musical experience whatsoever, no handbell experience whatsoever, as we will start at the very beginning! The bell choir will rehearse from 5:00 to 5:30, immediately before dinner so then you can enjoy the rest of your Wednesday evening activities! Please let Tim Navis know if you are interested, tim@fumcedmond.org or 405-423-3383. Please consider joining us!

Guthrie First UMC Update- From Pastor Trey

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We’ve officially been partnered and worshiping with our sister congregation Guthrie First UMC for an entire month, and I wanted to take a moment to share an update on how things are going. Eagerly accepting such a partnership is exciting but can also prompt some anxiety between both congregations. Yet from both churches I have encountered nothing but enthusiasm and inquisitiveness!

For the month of July, Guthrie FUMC has averaged 57 in worship—an almost doubling from the previously reported 30. This kind of response way surpasses any preconceived assumptions I had! When you factor in all the changes—particularly earlier worship time and new music styles—this kind of worship growth tells me two things. First, the Guthrie congregation has shown me exceptional spiritual maturity in being open to how the Holy Spirit is moving in this partnership. The kind of faith it takes to not only agree to this partnership, but to also dedicate themselves to faithfully attending is incredibly inspiring and humbling.

The second thing I’ve learned in this partnership is how blessed we are at Edmond First! From the entire worship team to our members who have been praying for this Guthrie ministry to bloom, I thank God every night for my appointment. We have families who attend Guthrie every Sunday, and I am consistently surprised at who from church decides to “drop in” to support. Each Sunday it seems there is a friendly face from church who decided to wake up early and make the drive to worship with our sister congregation. You cannot know the energy it gives me when I see your faces while I’m up there preaching.

Our youth are continuing to partner in programming; Guthrie youth meet on Sunday night, led by Rev. Kevin Tankerson, and we’ve been joining together for monthly fellowship activities. This week both youth groups went bowling at Guthrie’s 89er Bowl to kick off Youth Week 2019, and yesterday we explored Downtown OKC.

I ask that you continue to pray for this partnership. Please keep asking me how it is going because I have so many stories to tell from just one month! If you are interested in further supporting Guthrie, you can join us for a concert at Guthrie FUMC to hear Kyle Dillingham & Horseshoe Road fresh from the Grand Ole Opry! Stop by the church office to buy your tickets for $15!

Save the Date- All Church Retreat

As summer is coming to an end, the talk of camp still reverberates throughout the church. Talk of friendships made and faith deepened. Camping ministries is a huge part of our faith formation for our church—I have a colleague who likes to say that it is easier to grow closer with God in the five days at camp than any other time. The removal of distractions, the dedication to spiritual disciplines, the simple yet profound impact of just having fun, it’s what makes camp, well, camp.

It is this love of camp that led our staff to decide to hold an all-church retreat at Canyon Camp November 16-17th. We will all arrive down in the Canyon Saturday morning and depart following our own worship service Sunday morning.

We have a lot of lodge options ranging from the beautiful Hardt Lodge, the brand new cabins, or, for our more adventurous folk, tent camping! The break down of costs per person are as below:

Tent camping (must bring personal tent) – $35 per person

Bunk in Cabin – $60 per person (ages 1-7 $50)

Single in Hardt Lodge – $90

Double in Hardt Lodge – $70 per person

Triple in Hardt Lodge – $65 per person

Quad in Hardt Lodge – $62 per person

All of our meals will be included in the cost. I pray that you would consider coming to the all-church retreat. To reserve your spot NOW, email Trey at trey@fumcedmond.org.

Jesus is Coming! Look Busy!

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Lectionary Reading: Luke 12:32-40 (NRSV)

The difficulty of end times theology is that it creates an anxiety over the need for change. There is an expectation that with the return of Jesus there will be a system reset and this life will be over.

This may work for people who are suffering or facing a difficult future.

But for the average person, this may not be the case. When a loved one dies, we grieve at the loss of life even if we believe that the person went to heaven. We grieve our loss of time with them. We grieve the future that we had planned that will no longer be possible.

When we think about Jesus returning and disrupting our lives, there is some natural anxiety over the loss of our plans and dreams. Then there may be some guilt over the fact that we know that we are supposed to really be happy about Jesus returning!

So this passage for Sunday has some baggage attached to it if we are honest with ourselves.

I have come to believe that our ideas about the return of Jesus may not be as literal as we have interpreted them. If we are to interpret them literally, what does this do for the generations of Christians that preceded us? If the end times will occur in a moment in history (and preachers always seem to predict that it will not only be within our lifetime but very soon), then it means that the book of Revelation is only relevant for the particular generation in which these predictions will occur. Did all of the Christians who came before us waste their time in reading it?

I don’t think so.

So maybe we need to interpret this week’s reading differently.

What if the return of Jesus is more akin to how we treat the least of these as featured in Matthew 25? Certainly, we encounter the least of these unexpectedly. Most of us do not calendar encounters with the outsiders among us. Could these encounters be life-changing?

They can certainly be life-challenging.

They may also cause us to question the living of our lives as we know it.

As far as our peace of mind goes, I’m not sure this interpretation is any easier! In fact, if it is all about a more literal encounter with Jesus, then at least I’m off the hook if he doesn’t show! But maybe he’s been hanging around for longer than I’ve thought.

I look forward to being back from vacation and preaching on this passage this Sunday as we explore it together!

In Christ,

Sam

Follow Sam’s Blog at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com. Photo by Olivier Deveault via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.

Disciple Bible Studies beginning in September

Sign up below today to ensure your spot in these classes!

Wednesdays at 6 pm Starting Sept. 4

 

 
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Disciple Fast Track 1
Disciple Fast Track 1 provides comprehensive engagement with the entire biblical text. We meet for 24 weeks, devoting 12 weeks each to the Old Testament & New Testament. Read 3-5 chapters of the Bible daily in preparation for the weekly meetings, which last 1.5 hours. This class will be led by Rev. Trey Witzel on Wednesday evenings at 6 pm.

 

Disciple Fast Track 3
Classes meet for a total of 24 weeks, studying the Prophets and the letters traditionally attributed to Paul for 12 sessions each. Preparation is manageable, with 3–5 chapters of the Bible to read each day. This study examines the connection between memory and identity as the people of God. This class will be led by Rev. Don Vaught and David Lee on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 7:15 pm.

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Words from the Open Table

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Our minister of music will be finishing his seminary education this summer. He has been working online at Duke Divinity School – you may not have realized that Duke was a United Methodist institution! Tim’s goal is to seek ordination as a Deacon within our denomination which is the same order in which Rev. Don Vaught is a part. Other deacons related to our congregation include Kathy Coit, Beverly Powell and Marilyn Williams. A Deacon’s work is to connect the church to the world – usually in a specialized sense. Tim’s is through the ministry of music. Deacons do not itinerate like Elders do and while they are appointed by the bishop to a local setting like a church or a hospital, they seek to find their own employment.

A part of Tim’s review process as he seeks to be ordained is to preach, record and present a sermon to the Board of Ordained Ministry for the Oklahoma Conference. This Sunday, Tim will be preaching on the text of 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. This passage was one of several assigned to him as a possibility to interpret by the Board of Ordained Ministry. It deals with the sacrament of Holy Communion and the title of Tim’s sermon is “Am I Worthy?”

The sacrament of Holy Communion is not entirely understood. Our United Methodist document about this sacrament is entitled, “This Holy Mystery” so that tells us that it is not so black and white. While many churches don’t allow you to receive the Lord’s Supper unless you are a member of that church, we celebrate the open table which allows anyone to partake. One of the criticisms of this action by other denominations is that if someone receives it in an unworthy manner (as mentioned in the Corinthian passage for Sunday), they may unintentionally bring judgment upon themselves. This doesn’t sound like something we would want to risk, does it?

However, Paul’s message to the church at Corinth is pretty specific on their violations. It is doubtful that we would get drunk (especially since we use grape juice which they didn’t have available) or allow others to go hungry (our meal is more ritualistic than theirs). Our own sense of whether we deserve to receive or not may be more to the point of our concern. What does it mean to be given the meal regardless of our worthiness?

I hope you’ll join us for worship on Sunday morning. We’ll also be online if you can’t be there in person!

In Christ,

Sam

Follow Sam’s Blog at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com.

Monthly Ministry highlight: Project 66 Food and Resource Center Auction Fundraiser

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Project 66 Food and Resource Center is a nonprofit, faith-based ministry providing food to families in need. Their mission is to satisfiy their neighbors’ physical hunger and feed their spiritual hunger through kindness, prayer and the love of Jesus.

Each month, the Project 66 serves approximately 500 families in the Edmond area. The client-choice pantry mimics a grocery store where they can select from shelf stable foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy products and breads. Food is sourced through a partnership with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, local grocery store donations, local food drives and individual donations. In 2018, 5,844 families and 17,944 individuals were served!

It takes many volunteers to make Project 66 run. On average, 18 volunteers serve during each of their four service times each week. If you are interested in volunteering, you can contact Project 66 directly or contact FUMC’s Project 66 volunteer, Jim Brungardt at jfbrun1@cox.net.

As part of Edmond FUMC’s partnership with Project 66, we will be hosting a Project 66 Benefit Auction on Saturday, August 3 at 10 am. The event will feature an auction of goods as well as a silent auction of baked goods and pies. The money raised from the event will go to back to school packs and Thanksgiving meals at Project 66.

You can help make the Benefit Auction a success by either donating items (no clothing please) for the auction, or baking goods for the silent auction. If you are interested in donating, contact Jim at jfbrun1@cox.net.

Skyline Urban Ministry Gala

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Join Skyline for An Evening with Ron Hall: Workin’ Our Way Home at The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum on Friday, August 9. Skyline is delighted for Ron Hall to be our speaker at this event. Ron is a screenwriter and producer of the movie version of his first book, Same Kind of Different as Me.

Pre-event, VIP “Meet the Author” and book signing begin at 5:30. Registration and cash bar open at 6:30 pm. Dinner will be served at 7:00 pm. with program beginning at 7:45.

The proceeds from this evening will go toward providing clothing, food and eye care to those who live in the shadows of Oklahoma City’s skyline. Our goal for this event is to raise $100,000, 50% of all proceeds above that amount will be dedicated for Outreach to the Homeless.

You can learn more about Skyline and the services they provide by visiting www.skylineurbanministry.org.

To purchase tickets, contact Karen Hudgens at 918-906-4977, or Joe Leonard at 341-5895, or visit the Skyline website. Tickets are only available until August 7.

School Supply Drive

Boulevard Academy is made up of students from all three Edmond High Schools. Boulevard Buddies is a ministry of volunteers who “adopted” the school 11 years ago. The group has grown over the years from 6 to 60 current volunteers. Boulevard Buddies provides support to the students and staff with regularly planned activities and addresses specific needs as they arise.

This is the third year for our church wide ministry to Boulevard Academy to include a School Supply Drive to aid the students and staff. This was in response to learning that very few of the Boulevard families are able to provide basic school supplies.

Our goal is to provide school supplies for 50 students. Collection will begin Sunday, August 4th and continue thru Wednesday, August 14th. School begins August 16th. If you are interested in joining the Boulevard Buddies efforts on a regular basis or would like more information about this ministry, please contact Ellen Lyons by email, lyonsden5@cox.net, or 405-820-7729.

**Donate $40 to this project and someone else will shop for you! Checks may be made out to “First UMC, Edmond”include “Boulevard School Supplies”.

Boulevard Academy School Supplies Project

Student Supply List:

1 - 8” Scissors ($5)

5 - 3 Prong Pocket Folders ($2.50)

2 - boxes facial tissues ($4)

1 - 19 oz. Lysol Spray ($4)

1 - 75 count Disinfectant Wipes ($3)

1 - 12 count Colored Pencils ($2)

1 - 10 count Colored Markers ($2.50)

1- 24 count crayons ($.50)

2 - 8-12 oz. Hand Sanitizer ($4)

2 - 175 count College Ruled Notebook Paper ($4)

3 - 1 inch black 3-ring binder ($5.50)

2 - 12 count # 2 Pencils ($2)

2 - 7.625 oz. Elmer’s Glue ($4)

1 - 12 count Glue Sticks ($5)

1 - 4 count Dry Erase Markers-core colors ($3.50)

Are Parts of the Lord's Prayer More Essential than Others?

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Lectionary Reading: Luke 11:1-13 (NRSV)

My earliest years of religious life were in Assembly of God churches. I remember in Sunday school memorizing the 23rd Psalm. It was the King James Version and that remains my preferred reading for this passage regardless of the better scholarship available in newer translations.

My experience must be shared by others because we have the KJV of this psalm available in the United Methodist Hymnal (#137) as a responsive reading. When I utilize Psalm 23 at funerals (often requested), I read from the King James. Familiarity in religion is comforting.

As I became United Methodist, I memorized the Apostles’ Creed for my confirmation class. I’m not sure I understood everything in it as a 6th grader but I could recite it to you easily (and still can to this day). Other things I learned in worship were the Gloria Patri and the Doxology. These were easier to memorize because we sang them.

As a youth, I memorized Numbers 6:24-26 through the UMYF (United Methodist Youth Fellowship) Benediction:

May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. Amen.

We would say this in an interlocking circle (right arm over left) and then spin out to depart.

As a college student, I solidified my memorization of a table blessing that we would sing together at the Wesley Foundation. It was to the Old 100th tune and we sang these words:

Be present at our table Lord; be here and everywhere adored; these mercies bless and grant that we may feast in fellowship with thee. Amen.

I learned to enjoy harmonization as we sang this multiple times through the week before meals together! I still smile as I hear John Rusco’s bass voice starting us out.

At some point, I learned the Lord’s Prayer. I can’t remember when or specifically memorizing it - it likely came as an older elementary student after we joined Boston Avenue United Methodist Church. Later, I learned that while I say “trespasses” that others say “debts” or “sins”.

Even later, I learned that this prayer is named for Jesus because he taught it to his disciples. The version that we utilize in worship comes from Matthew 6:9-13. Luke also has a version found in this week’s lectionary reading and it doesn’t have different material from Matthew’s version, just less of it. Was Luke aware of Matthew’s version and just utilized what he considered important or essential? Or did he write about the tradition as his community prayed it?

In Luke’s version, we praise God and look for the divine reign to actualize. We pray for sustenance for our immediate needs. We ask for forgiveness that seems expectant based on our own merciful behavior. And we ask that we could avoid any testing of our faith. Maybe as we look at Matthew’s version, we can see that these are the essentials. I do like the emphasis on God’s reign being earthly and spiritual in Matthew but maybe it is implied in Luke. Was this so obvious, he felt it didn’t need inclusion?

Those spiritual things that we memorize can become precious to us. They may pop up in our heads at just the moments we need them. They can be a source of strength (“And God will raise you up on eagle’s wings...”) that give us courage and fortitude. They allow us to drink more deeply from the well, refreshing our thirst.

This Sunday, we’ll be exploring this passage from Luke as it continues to not only apply to our lives but also lifts up God’s countenance upon us and gives us peace!

In Christ,

Sam

Follow Sam’s Blog at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com. Photo by jenni_froedrick via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.

What is Jesus Thinking?

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Lectionary Reading: Luke 10:38-42 (NRSV)

Leadership is a strange thing. You have to try it on before it actually fits.

Some people seem to have natural instincts for leadership but even they must hone their skills, making poor showings along the way. If a person can learn from mistakes, they will find this a life-long teacher!

Church taught me valuable leadership skills. We had a summer program when I was in Middle School where I was named an “L.I.T.” which stood for “Leader-In-Training”. We helped out at various activities through our church’s children’s ministry such as Vacation Bible School, summer church programs at Camp Egan, and two weeks of day camps at the Naifeh Ranch.

The latter were times where we went out with small groups and had a home-in-the-woods each day. We learned here to dig a pit for the fire where we cooked our food. We learned to ring the pit with rocks - only the one tending the fire would be allowed inside this circle. I can remember making all kinds of meals such as hobo dinners, banana boats and pudding in a cup. This was the first place I ate super spuds. I learned that you couldn’t get antsy with the cooking time of the potato unless you wanted a crunchy spud! One of my favorites was when we made mini pizzas by placing foil across some hangers. We used English muffins topped with spaghetti sauce, grated cheese and pepperoni slices. My older brother rigged foil on the hangers at a 45 degree angle so the heat reflected back on the top and really melted the cheese!

I learned when playing games like Capture the Flag that if the teams were not even, the game was not enjoyable for everyone. When a particular athlete was dominating a game like “Squirrel-in-the-tree” you could switch the rules and reverse the person who was it so that the slower child could get off the hook.

I learned about leading a particular Psalm in worship through our small group’s particular interpretation. This may have been my first foray into church liturgy!

I learned that the leaders of the camp took me seriously even though I was in middle school. I was held to standards, given real responsibilities and expected to carry my weight. This was the camp where I brought my brother’s blow torch (with his permission) to help light the campfires after a downpour the previous night. I had no temptations to misuse it because I realized that this was a big responsibility. I also knew my brother’s reputation was on the line. I desired to live up to the person the church thought I could be.

In today’s scripture reading, we may be wondering why Mary is slacking off. This would definitely be a 21st century reading! When Martha addresses Jesus about her sister, she may be concerned about the gender roles that were being bent. The phrase “sat at the Lord’s feet” was a euphemism for discipleship. If someone bothers to learn something, they would be expected to eventually teach it. Women of that day would not be considered to teach and so Martha may have been trying to restore the order of things.

This example shows us that the church has long had a history of seeing the potential in people whether it was a woman being able to do things normally reserved for a man or a youth doing something normally reserved for adults. I wonder at the image of Mary teaching people about Jesus (and being able to repeat lessons he taught) following the resurrection. I bet that people came from all over to hear this marvelous woman.

To share God’s grace is a blessing. When we do so whether it be in a Bible lesson or in helping someone else to learn fire safety while cooking, we may find that we have chosen the better part and it can’t be taken away from us!

We’ll be exploring this passage further this Sunday in worship!

In Christ,

Sam

Follow Sam’s Blog at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com. Photo by Dan Thibodeaux via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.

The Boundaries of Love

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Lectionary Reading: Luke 10:25-37 (NRSV)

This week’s Gospel reading contains what may be the most famous parable Jesus ever told. While some might give the Prodigal Son that title, I would be hard-pressed to say that it is more well-known than the Good Samaritan. While both titles have taken on life of their own as pop-culture examples (you can be called both a Prodigal and a Good Samaritan depending on context), I would argue that there are probably more references to being a Good Samaritan.

There are lots of takes on this particular parable which does make it interesting for sermon interpretation.

As I was re-reading it, I thought that Luke (only author to use this parable) might be foreshadowing the fate of Jesus as he seeks to expand our understanding of the Christian mission. I believe that Luke’s Gospel would have been written to the churches in the Mediterranean world rather than in Judea. This would mean a much broader audience and a wider variety of cultures than a more Jewish context. As the Church expands into Gentile territory, Christianity must reflect a greater appreciation for the types of people that it will seek to evangelize.

Most Christians have heard many times over about how the Samaritans and the Jews were enemies. It would have been a surprise to see the Samaritan cast in the hero’s role. The lawyer can’t even bring himself to utter “Samaritan” when Jesus asks him which was the noble person in the story.

What if we imagine Jesus to be the man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho? The bandits who set upon the man rob him, strip him, beat him and leave him for dead. Jesus when turning over the tables in the Temple quotes scripture telling them that they have made God’s house a den of robbers.

The priest and the Levite who avoid tending to the injured man could also refer to the factions of Judaism that ignored Jesus as the Messiah. The Samaritan who provides for the man could represent the Gentiles who are now embracing Jesus as the Christ in Luke’s day.

Interestingly enough, the first person to acknowledge the righteousness of Jesus following his death was a Gentile in Luke 23:47: “When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’”

Of course, this allegorical interpretation is only one way to look at the parable. That’s the beauty of the stories of Jesus - they are worthy of much discussion and we find a great multitude of truths contained within them. The Good Samaritan should always challenge us and just when we think that we are getting it right, it should remind us that we may have a ways to go.

I hope you’ll join us this Sunday (or online at your convenience) as we encounter this most famous of parables once more. Even though we may know it well, it is surely worth another listen so that we may continue to be shaped by it.

In Christ,

Sam

Follow Sam’s Blog at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com. Photo by Vicki DeLoach via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.