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Join Us For Worship!

Join Us For Worship!
Sundays at 8:30AM, 9:45AM, and 11AM

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, August 20, 2017:

First Reading: Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Genesis 45:1-15

Psalm: Psalm 67

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 133

Second Reading: Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32

Gospel: Matthew 15:[10-20] 21-28

I don't like this picture of Jesus that today's Gospel represents. He treats the Canaanite woman rudely, with a complete lack of compassion. What do we make of this vision of Christ?

Part of the answer may depend on your view of Jesus/God. Do you see God as completely formed? Do you see God as never making mistakes?  We see Jesus change his mind in today's reading.  It's an interesting idea of the Divine.

I like the idea of God who allows us to disagree--and a God that sometimes agrees that we are right in our disagreement. I like the idea of a God that is being shaped and changed by creation, just as we are being shaped and changed by creation--and by God.

I know it's not as comforting as what many of us were taught in Sunday School. I know we'd rather believe in an absolute God, a God who has all the answers. We don't want to believe in a God who gets tired. We don't want to believe in a God who doesn't have absolute control. We want a God who can point and make magical changes, even though everything we've experienced about the world doesn't suggest that God does that act very often, if at all.

In today's Gospel, we see a tired, irritable Jesus. It's a terrifying idea (I'd prefer a God of infinite patience), but it's the best support to show that God did indeed become human.

The Canaanite woman is much more Godlike than Jesus in this Gospel. Here's a woman who is desperate to help her child. When Jesus rebukes her, she stands up to him and argues her case. And she persuades him. She demands justice, and because she stands her ground, she wins.

She has much to teach us. We are called to emulate her. When we see injustice, we must cry out to God and demand that creation be put right. Many theologians would tell you that if you want God to be active in this free will world that God has created, that you better start making some demands. God can't be involved unless we demand it (for a further discussion of this concept, see the excellent books of Walter Wink). If God just intervened in the world, that would violate the principle of free will which God instilled in creation. But if we invite God to action, then God has grounds to act.

I would argue that some of the most sweeping social changes of the twentieth century were grounded in this principle of crying out to the wider world and to God to demand that justice be done. Think of Gandhi's India, the repressiveness of the Jim Crow era in the USA, the South African situation decried by Archbishop Tutu, the civil wars in Central America, the Soviet occupied Eastern Europe: these situations horrified the larger world and the movements to rectify them were rooted in the Christian tradition. True, there were often external pressures applied, economic embargoes and the like, but each situation prompted prayer movements throughout the world.

We are in a similar time--perhaps humanity is always in a similar time.  The world is full of injustice that should make us cry out, especially since much of the injustice will not easily be fixed by any one of us.  Cry out to God about the plight of refugees, the racism that has such deep roots, the economy which keeps so many so desperate, the warming of the planet, and the list could go on and on.

 Let the Canaanite woman be your guide towards right behavior. Let the actions of Jesus remind you that even if you're snappy and irritable, you can change course and direct yourself towards grace and compassion. Let your faith give you hope for a creation restored to God's original vision of a just and peaceful Kingdom.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Foundations Firm and Sandy

This week, we finish our study of the Sermon on the Mount, by pondering this passage:  Matthew 7:24-27.

Lately, we may all be feeling like we've built our houses--real or metaphorical--on sand.  I remember the day that my spouse was repairing the fence and digging holes for the post.  He couldn't sink them deep enough because he hit water.  We're about twenty inches above sea level, and although our house has pilings as part of its support system, but those were put in place long ago, long before anyone would have had to consider sea level rise.

I'm also feeling like the larger world is built on a foundation of sand.  I watch world leaders bellow at each other and make nuclear threats which might be hollow or might be real, and I watch Venezuela slide into even greater chaos, and I wonder if we've fallen through a hole in time.  Can we learn nothing from the mistakes of the past?

All of our ancient wisdom, across a variety of spiritual traditions, warns us about placing our trust in the wrong areas.  Most of us have first hand experience in the loss of our material things.  Most of us long ago realized how our world leaders might let us down.

Jesus reminds us of our true foundation:  his words.  Our last year's journey through the Sermon on the Mount shows us that Christ's teachings are just as relevant for twenty-first century life as they were when Jesus first spoke them.  If we put those teachings into practice, Jesus assures us that our lives will not collapse--they may change in ways that we would never have imagined, but they will not be washed away.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Good Fruit, Bad Fruit

Our time with the Sermon on the Mount is drawing to a close.  This Sunday, we will ponder Matthew 7:  15-23.  What part jumps out at you?

Perhaps it is the warning about false prophets that seems timely, those people who seem sheeplike from the outside but are ferocious wolves inside.  These days, I'm even more worried about the ones who don't bother to disguise themselves.  I know I should be grateful--at least I know my enemies.  But the unguarded ferocity of our times never ceases to worry me.

I am always struck by good fruit and bad fruit, and always, my inner voice of worry pipes up.  What if I'm bad fruit?  What if I'm going to be cut down and thrown in the fire?

I'm not sure that Jesus meant for us to identify with the fruit itself.  A Lutheran minister friend of mine, David Eck, just preached on the seeds that land in a variety of soil, and he has chosen to view the metaphor differently.  He says that we're not the seeds, but the soil.  There are no bad seeds--what good news!

But we're not completely off the hook.  Eck continues, "When we see ourselves as the field, an interesting thing happens: The need to label others stops, and all the finger pointing gets turned in toward ourselves."  (for the complete sermon, go here:  https://jesusunboxed.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/no-bad-seeds-we-are-the-field-mt-1324-30/)

No matter whether or not we see ourselves as good fruit trees, bad fruit trees, or the soil that holds us all, there's still improvement that can be made.  I think of my parched petunias on my porch.  Once they grew so vibrantly, and now the summer is taking its toll.  But I still water them.  I still hope for a revival.

Likewise, we, too can nourish our spiritual lives.  We can make the chance for good fruit more likely.  The ways we do this will be as varied as our human existences.  Some of us will turn off our gadgets and devices.  Some of us will head out to be in natural surroundings more.  Some of us will add some devotional time.  Some of us will paint.  Some of us will invite the neighbors over for dinner.

God is not the harsh gardener who will chop us down and throw us into the fire.  Frankly, God doesn't have to do that.  We marinate in the bad choices that we've made, and that's punishment enough.
But the Good News comes again and again.  Death doesn't have the final word.  Resurrection awaits.  Choose your spiritual manure and get to work bearing good fruit.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Al Gearhart's Funeral Update

At around 9pm Sunday evening, Al Gearhart, husband to Shirley and father to Tom, Bill, and Denise entered the Kingdom Triumphant, peacefully passing away under the care of Seasons Hospice at Memorial South Hospital after battling pneumonia and other complications. 

The celebration of life and memorial service will take place this Sunday at Trinity Lutheran Church at 11am with a meal to follow in the fellowship hall. If you would like to bring a dish please let Dany know (954) 907-1562 or vdvega@bellsouth.net 

In lieu of flowers the family has asked that donations be made to the Trinity Memorial fund in his memory. The funds will be used towards the completion of Trinity's new communionware set. 

Notes of condolence may be sent to:

Mrs. Shirley Gearhart 
Denise Isbell (daughter) 
12731 SW 13 Manor
Davie, FL  33325

Bill (son) and Patsy Gearhart 
Sarah, Zak (grandchildren)
18440 NW 18 St
Pembroke Pines, FL 33029

Mr. Thomas Gearhart (son)
839 Asbury Drive
Aurora, IL 60502

Allison Isbell (granddaughter)
455 W Riddle Ave 
Ravenna Ohio 44266

Matthew Isbell (grandson)

2039 north Meridian rd #171 Tallahassee fl 32303