24 June 2011

The Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9 - 3 July 2011

Zechariah 9:9-12
Psalm 145:8-15
Romans 7:15-25a
St. Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

BACKGROUND: The RCL and Ordinary Time
Since Advent of 2007, the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) has been the Lectionary of the Episcopal Church.  The history of the RCL, and of the three-year lectionary is a study in ecumenism.  The three-year lectionary that was adapted by the Episcopal (1979) and Lutheran Church (1978) (later by the Methodists, Presbyterians, and other Protestants) was a version of the Ordo Lectionum Missae, promulgated by the Roman Church in 1969 following the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.  A further revision (The Common Lectionary) was proposed in 1974, which represented a collaboration of English-speaking churches, including the Roman Church.  In 1994, the Revised Common Lectionary was published, and was adopted in time by most of the liturgical churches in North America, as well as the Church of England.  The Roman Church has not adopted it.  What are the differences?  The most notable is the option during Ordinary Time to use an on-going reading from the Hebrew Scriptures.  The program is:  in year A – Genesis through Judges, in year B – The Davidic Covenant and Wisdom Literature, and in year C – The prophets.  Along side the option are the traditional readings from the Hebrew Scriptures, which are thematically related to the Gospel.  This is the option that we will be using.

Zechariah 9:9-12

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall command peace to the nations;
his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
today I declare that I will restore to you double.

Michelangelo - The Prophet Zechariah

The book of Zechariah is divided into two major parts (called “burdens”), the first part being written around 520 or so (right after the return of the Babylonian exiles) and the second being written around the time of Alexander the Great’s invasion (ca. 332).  The tone of each of the sections is widely divergent, with the first part being very precise and advocating for the rebuilding of the temple and supporting the restoration of the Davidic line.  The second section is not as precise, is not wedded to either temple or kingship, but rather seeing in Alexander a vision similar to the one IInd Isaiah experience with Cyrus the Mede.  Our reading for today falls in the later section, which centers on a messianic vision that includes the whole of the country, not just Jerusalem.  Here we see a kingly presence, one who is victorious, and who raises the opportunity for hope.  For IInd Isaiah, the person who brought hope was Cyrus the Mede, who indeed freed the Babylonian exiles.  The “messiah” in this reading takes on a similar cast, saving the exiles from a time of deprivation and hopelessness.  The sentiment of the final verses relates quite nicely to the sentiments that Jesus expresses in the final verses of the Gospel reading.

Breaking open Zechariah:
  1. How could Alexander the Great be a hero for Zechariah?
  2. What other “heros” lived during this period?
  3. Who are the heros in our time, and what is their attitude about religion?

Psalm 145:8-15 Exaltabo te, Deus

The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, *
slow to anger and of great kindness.

The LORD is loving to everyone *
and his compassion is over all his works.

All your works praise you, O LORD, *
and your faithful servants bless you.

They make known the glory of your kingdom *
and speak of your power;

That the peoples may know of your power *
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; *
your dominion endures throughout all ages.

The LORD is faithful in all his words *
and merciful in all his deeds.

The LORD upholds all those who fall; *
he lifts up those who are bowed down.

This is the only psalm purposefully designated as a “praise psalm”.  Certainly there are others, especially the last six “hallel” psalms.  This one, however, is specifically designated as such, “A David psalm of praise”.  It is also an acrostic psalm, based on the alphabet.  Your reading starts at verse 8, which is a quotation of Exodus, 34:5 in which the Yahwist proclaims: "The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity…” What is interesting in this psalm, which celebrates God’s kingship and is its universal character, wishing God’s blessings on all humankind.  This attitude is consonant with the general feeling in the First Reading which is more universal than national, more insightful of God’s rule than David’s.

Breaking open Psalm 145:8-15
1.     In what ways are the psalms nationalistic?
2.     In what ways is this psalm beyond that?
3.     In what ways are these verses consonant with our times, in what ways are they not?

Romans 7:15-25a

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.  But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.  

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

As Paul develops his argument in the letter to the Romans, he lists three points of freedom that come to the Christian devoted to a life in Christ.  The first two freedoms precede our reading for this morning: 1) Freedom from sin and death, and 2) Freedom from self by uniting with Christ.  In our reading today we see the third freedom - the freedom from the Law.  What Paul paints in this argument is a deep psychological conflict between the self, deeply conscious of the reasonableness and holiness of God’s Law against which an indwelling nature of “Sin” weighs heavily and defeats the good intentions of the individual.  Paul paints a whirling dilemma, full of frustration and guilt, until he asks the primary question, “Who will rescue me.”  Finally the hearer becomes aware of the salvation that Paul wishes to underscore.  It is a saving wrought by Jesus Christ.  Since these readings are a continuing reading in Romans, we will hear further arguments in this line.

Breaking open Romans:
  1. Do you have a spiritual battle with yourself?
  2. Can you do good, or are you tempted to do evil?
  3. How do you solve this conflict?

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Jesus said to the crowd, "To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

`We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.'

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, `He has a demon'; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, `Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."

At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

This reading is really made up of three separate pericopes (sections), with a fourth, (verses 20-24) omitted.  Jesus is attempting to get the hearer to understand the difficulty of his situation by comparing his ministry and personality with that of Saint John the Baptist.  John, the ascetic, is criticized for being an ascetic, and his asceticism is assigned to a demon.  Jesus the rabbi, on the other hand is accused of being a glutton, and for socializing with nere-do-wells.  To make his point Jesus utters a saying about children who are unsatisfied with the game being offered, and desiring something else.  The final sentence, “Wisdom is vindicated by her deeds,” may be an interpolation, comparing Jesus to Wisdom.

The second periscope continues the comparison – this time between the “wise and intelligent” and “infants”.  The wise are the Jewish intelligentsia, the Pharisees and their like.  The infants are the disciples and followers of Jesus, who do not have the conventional wisdom sought after by the elites.  The little ones are in a position to understand.  The claims that Jesus makes here in Matthew sound as though they had come from the Gospel of John (written at a much later date).  Matthew, however, wants to convince the reader of the unique relationship that Jesus has with the Father, and the revelation that comes as a result of that relationship.  The revelation is not like the former disclosure through the prophets, but rather the new revelation in Jesus, disparaged by “this generation.”

Finally, Jesus has an uncanny awareness of the psychological state of his audience, filled with a weariness and fatigue, perhaps stemming from the difficulty of his arguments and teaching.  To such he promises a relief from the weariness of understanding what it is that God offers.  There is still work to be done (Take my yoke) but it offers a greater reward.

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. In what ways are you intelligent and wise?
  2. In what ways are you naïve and simple?
  3. How do you reconcile the two?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

21 June 2011

The Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8 - 26 June 2011

Jeremiah 28:5-9
Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18
Romans 6:12-23
St. Matthew 10:40 - 42

BACKGROUND: Ordinary Time
When last in “ordinary time” we were in the Sundays following The Epiphany of Our Lord, a brief pause in the festival half of the Church’s Year.  Now we enter it again.  From the First Sunday after Pentecost (Trinity Sunday) until The Last Sunday after Pentecost (Christ the King) we shall be in Ordinary Time.  In the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) there are options during this period.  The Lectionary provides for a continuing reading from the Hebrew Scriptures with it’s own responsorial psalm.  This is the option to the regular reading from the Hebrew Scriptures that reflects the themes of the Gospel for the day.  Each Sunday is named for the number after Pentecost, and is assigned a proper.  The length of Ordinary Time depends on the date when Easter falls, a date in the lunar, rather than solar calendar.  During the period of time we shall begin with proper 8, and continuing on until Christ the King.  The color for the season is green.

Jeremiah 28:5-9

The prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the LORD; and the prophet Jeremiah said, "Amen! May the LORD do so; may the LORD fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the LORD, and all the exiles. But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet."

Chagall - The Prophet Jeremiah
Jeremiah is in the midst of perilous times.  Institutions are being challenged by the great powers that are putting pressure on the Kingdom of Judah, and people are looking to the prophets for answers.  The question is one of discernment.  Who is speaking the right prophecy?  Jeremiah has in his mind a quotation from the Deuteronomist (18:21-22) “If you say to yourselves, 'How can we recognize an oracle which the LORD has spoken?’ know that, even though a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if his oracle is not fulfilled or verified, it is an oracle which the LORD did not speak. The prophet has spoken it presumptuous-ly, and you shall have no fear of him.”  Jeremiah comments on the hopefulness of Hananiah, who proclaims what the people and the powers that be want to hear.  Babylon will be broken, and the exiles will return.  Jeremiah however sees a continuing struggle and exile.  He suspects that Hananiah’s prophecy has a political impetus, unlike his own which speaks the real situation.  This speaking out against a political settlement for the Kingdom of Judah forms the backbone of Jeremiah’s prophetic work.

Breaking open Genesis:
  1. What do you understand prophecy to be?
  2. What do you think of Jeremiah’s standard?
  3. What did you think of Hananiah’s prophecy?

Psalm 89:1-4,15-18 Misericordias Domini

Your love, O LORD, for ever will I sing; *
from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.

For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever; *
you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.

"I have made a covenant with my chosen one; *
I have sworn an oath to David my servant:

'I will establish your line for ever, *
and preserve your throne for all generations.'"

Happy are the people who know the festal shout! *
they walk, O LORD, in the light of your presence.

They rejoice daily in your Name; *
they are jubilant in your righteousness.

For you are the glory of their strength, *
and by your favor our might is exalted.

Truly, the LORD is our ruler; *
the Holy One of Israel is our King.

David and Solomon
There is a superscription to this psalm, which dedicates it to Ethan the Ezrahite, the brother of Heyman the Ezrahite, to whom psalm 88 is dedicated.  The choice of this psalm is related to the first reading, in which Jeremiah comments on the prophecies which surround the Davidid kings in a time of disaster, revolt, and on-going war.  The initial verses (1-5) comment on God’s choice of David both as king and as a founder of a dynasty that God will bless.  The second collection of verses, in our reading for today, comment on the essential roles of justice and the law.  The concluding verses, not in our reading, offer comment on how far the “sons of David” have fallen from the ideas of their father.

Breaking open Psalm 89:
1.     In what ways was David a righteous man?
2.     In what ways was David unrighteous?
3.     What do we do when our leaders are unrighteous?

Romans 6:12-23

Do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.  No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.  
What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!  Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?  But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.  I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.  

When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death.  But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Baptism of Clovis
With this Sunday, we begin a continuing reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans.  In next Sunday’s “Background”, I shall comment on the book as a whole.  This reading follows an examination of Baptism and its power in the Christian’s life.  Indeed, some of the sections read as if from either a Baptismal sermon or liturgy.  The motif is one of slavery, or better for our understanding “service”.  There is always payment for slavery or service.  Paul uses this common knowledge to allow his readers to see the consequences of sin.  “The waters of sin is death,” states it succinctly.  Why this long speech after a lecture on baptism?  Paul wants the Christian to still be on guard, for anything is still possible in spite of our baptism.  Paul presents his usual dichotomy: slavery to sin, or slavery to righteousness, death, or life.  Choosing Christ in Baptism then becomes for us a constant choice, and a constant watchfulness.

Breaking open Romans:
  1. Does Baptism bring you freedom?
  2. How do you make decisions in that freedom?
  3. Does Baptism restrain you from anything?

Matthew 10:40-42

Jesus said, "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple-- truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward."

The Prophet Jesus

Just as in the second lesson, the Gospel forms a continuing reading from the Gospel of Matthew.  This reading forms the end of a long discourse in which Jesus instructs the disciples in the art of being in mission.  The discourse is formed around both positives and negatives, such as entering a house and receiving its peace, or its rejection.  The disciple is instructed to act accordingly.  Actually, and here we have to look back at the first lesson, Jesus, like Jeremiah, is pondering on the role of the prophet – the prophets that he hopes his disciples will be.  It is a continuum of relationship, the Father, the Son, the prophet, the disciple, the hearer; these are all bound together in a relationship of service and recognition.  Out of that relationship comes the prophetic voice – the Word that God wants us to hear now.

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. How would you describe your relationship with God?
  2. If you are Jesus’ disciple, and thus God’s prophet, what does God want you to proclaim?
  3. What kind of prophetic work do you do?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

09 June 2011

The First Sunday after Pentecost, Trinity Sunday - 19 June 2011

Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Psalm 8
II Corinthians 13:11-13
St. Matthew 28:16-20

The Holy Trinity - Rublev

BACKGROUND: The Feast of the Holy Trinity
Festivals in the Christian Calendar usually celebrate events in the life of our Lord.  This particular festival, however, celebrates a dogma of the Church, and is a latecomer to the liturgical year.  The 10th Century saw the introduction of offices dedicated to the Holy Trinity, but it was not until the 14th Century that the Roman Church adopted it as a festival.  In the Episcopal Church it is one of seven principal feast days in the Calendar.  In certain liturgical churches, the Athanasian Creed (Quicumque vult) is confessed either at Prime (the Roman Church) or at the Trinity Sunday Eucharist (some Anglican and Lutheran Churches).  There is an Anglican twist to the celebration in that Thomas Beckett (1118-70) honored the date of his consecration as the Archbishop of Canterbury on the Sunday after Whitsunday (Pentecost) as a new festival that honored the Holy Trinity.

Genesis 1:1-2:4a
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
And God said, "Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

And God said, "Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it." And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

And God said, "Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth." And it was so. God made the two great lights-- the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night-- and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
And God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky." So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind." And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."

So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." God said, "See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

Adam and Eve - Ghiberti

The Ancient Near East was no stranger to prose and poetry regarding the creation of the cosmos.  Sumerian and Babylonian epics, as well as those that are based on these epics, all revolved about the gods battle against chaos.  Some of this is reflected in the version that forms our reading for today, and is evident in the psalter as well (Psalm 74:12-14).  Here, however, the single God creates in 6 days, a reflection of the workweek of ancient Israel, providing a theological understanding of how society was ordered.  There is almost a liturgical response to each of the days, which seems natural since this version is from the “priestly” strand.  The response, “God saw that it was good”, provides for both response and memory.  That it borrows certain motifs from other Ancient Near Eastern texts does not diminish its intent to set the story of creation by YHWH apart from the myths of other cultures.  This is Israel’s proclamation about the God who creates and preserves.

Breaking open Genesis:
  1. Why do you think that this reading was chosen for this day which celebrates the Holy Trinity?
  2. What aspects of the Trinity are seen in the Creation story?
  3. Have you heard of the “Sabbath Movement”?  When do you rest from all your labors?

Psalm 8 Domine, Dominus noster

O LORD our Governor, *
how exalted is your Name in all the world!

Out of the mouths of infants and children *
your majesty is praised above the heavens.

You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries, *
to quell the enemy and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, *
the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,

What is man that you should be mindful of him? *
the son of man that you should seek him out?

You have made him but little lower than the angels; *
you adorn him with glory and honor;

You give him mastery over the works of your hands; *
you put all things under his feet:

All sheep and oxen, *
even the wild beasts of the field,

The birds of the air, the fish of the sea, *
and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.

O LORD our Governor, *
how exalted is your Name in all the world!

Adam and Eve - Dürer

In this psalm we have what seems to be a recollection of the wonders of creation.  It looks forward to the past acts of creation (Hebrew always saw the future as something behind – unknown) and muses on them.  The wondrous nature of humanity is celebrated at several points.  Out of the mouths of babes…” notes that even the youngest of humankind know their special relationship with God.  At the center of the psalm stands the human, placed below God, the gods, and the angels.  The relationship is succinctly stated, as well as the honor and the responsibility that goes with it.  The meditation on creation becomes a reflection on our role with God in creation.

Breaking open Psalm 8:
1.     What is the role of humankind in the world?
2.     How well does our time meet that role?
3.     How might we “master” the works of God’s hands?

II Corinthians 13:11-13
Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

In this farewell to the people at the Church in Corinth, Paul wishes a blessing replete with all good things: agreement, peace between themselves and God and with humankind as well.  The “holy kiss”, a liturgical act, would have reminded the Corinthians of the relationship that they held with Paul, and the relationship that they held in Christ.  The closing blessing serves as a liturgical greeting in the Roman Catholic and Lutheran rites for the Holy Eucharist.

Breaking open II Corinthians:
  1. What does “peace” mean to you?  What comprises peace?
  2. What kind of relationships do you have at church?  How do you give a “holy kiss”?
  3. What kind of relationship do you have with Christ?  How would you describe it?

St. Matthew 28:16-20
The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Pier Paolo Pasoline - The Gospel According to Matthew

Galilee, oddly enough, is the epicenter of the new church, for this is where Jesus chooses to meet the disciples.  The mountain is unimportant, but rather symbolic of all the mountains that have appeared in Salvation History. That the disciples “doubt” (or do not recognize him) is a common theme in the resurrection appearances (Emmaus, Mary Magdalene, at the Sea of Galilee, and Thomas).  Matthew completes his Gospel fully in mind of his own time.  No longer is the mission of the church limited to the Jews.  The mission is unlimited – a development that would have been apparent to Matthew and his contemporaries.  And what shall this church do?  Baptize is the first command, although it is doubtful that at this point a Trinitarian formula would have been used (see Acts 2:38).  The Gospel here reflects a later usage.  The other command is to teach, and here we see Matthew’s identification of Jesus with the Prophet Moses (see the Birth Narrative).  Unlike Moses, however, this teacher is with us “to the end of the age.”

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. Who is included in this command to baptize and teach?
  2. How do you baptize?
  3. How do you teach, and whom do you teach?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.