24 August 2015

The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 17, 30 August 2015

Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
Psalm 15
James 1:17-27
St. Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Background: The Holiness Code
Although the Holiness Code refers to a specific section of the Book of Leviticus (see Leviticus 17-26) the general tenor of the Law commends this as a good place to understand the purity laws of Judaism, which Laws both Moses and Jesus make comment on. The breadth of the Holiness Code covers a multitude of things: the sacred nature of blood, sexual behaviors, general behavior, punishment for sins, the purity of priests, holy days and Passover, Pentecost, New Year’s Day, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Booths,  Aspects of the Tabernacle/Temple, the Sabbatical Year, the Jubilee Year and its customs, and finally what comes with obedience to the Law, and disobedience as well (Blessings and Curses). These provisions have a special interest in the political and religious conversations of our time, but the ones that are especially noted in are time seem limited to the provisions for sexual purity. The code seems to be a product of the compilers of the Priestly strand of the Torah, and owe some influence to the civil codes of the cultures that surrounded Israel. There are other writings in the Bible with which one might compare it, namely the 22nd Chapter of Ezekiel, the Covenant Code (Exodus 20:19 – 23:33), and the Deuteronomic Code (Deuteronomony12-26). From the standpoint of the biblical student, the Lay Reader, or from the Deacon or Priest, it might be a good study habit to reacquaint oneself with these codes, their similarities and their differences. Just being a good citizen would demand it.

Song of Solomon 2:8-13

The voice of my beloved!
Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Look, there he stands
behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
looking through the lattice.
My beloved speaks and says to me:

“Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away.”

Broad in terms of its composition (sometime between the fourth and second century BCE), and in its cultural sources (there are many examples of similar literature in Egypt and Mesopotamia), the book must be taken at face value, and each contribution examined for what it proposes to give. Our reading is the so-called “Fifth Poem” (2:8-17). With this pericope we begin to see an example of a fully formed song, not just the fragment of one. The phrase “my beloved” is repeated often (five times) and grants a cohesiveness to the song. We meet characters, the gazelle (the male lover), “my darling, my fair one” (the female lover. It is not only love that is celebrated here, but the season attuned to it – springtime.

Breaking open the Song of Solomon:
  1. Why do you think this is in the Bible?
  2. What might this love be a metaphor of?
  3. Have you ever written a poem about one you loved?

Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10 Eructavit cor meum

My heart is stirring with a noble song;
let me recite what I have fashioned for the king; *
my tongue shall be the pen of a skilled writer.

You are the fairest of men; *
grace flows from your lips,
because God has blessed you for ever.

Your throne, O God, endures for ever and ever, *
a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom;
you love righteousness and hate iniquity.

Therefore God, your God, has anointed you *
with the oil of gladness above your fellows.

All your garments are fragrant with myrrh, aloes, and cassia, *
and the music of strings from ivory palaces makes you glad.

Kings' daughters stand among the ladies of the court; *
on your right hand is the queen,
adorned with the gold of Ophir.

The tune to this psalm may be "lilies", if we are take the ascription literally. It accompanies the love song from the Song of Solomon well, for it seems to be a love song performed on the occasion of the king's marriage to a foreign princess. You might want to read the entire psalm to get the drift of its meaning and the beauty of its words. Unusual in this psalm is the praise that the author heaps upon himself, "my tongue shall be the pen of a skilled writer." Verse seven presents us with some difficulty. Is it God's throne, as the BCP translation seems to imply, or might it be the throne royal. Robert Alter translates it as; "Your throne of God is forevermore,"[1] which would continue the royal focus of the poem. Some commentators feel that this psalm is actually the work of the royal court, perhaps Solomon’s.

Breaking open Psalm 45:
1.     Why is the king glorified in this psalm?
2.     What is the relationship of the psalm to God?
3.     In whom do you see beauty?


Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9

Moses said: So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the LORD, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the LORD your God with which I am charging you.

You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!" For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?

But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children's children.

Last Sunday we reviewed the story of Joshua and his urging the people to remain faithful to the covenant with YHWH. This Sunday, we hear Moses’ urging the same thing. What we have is a homily that moves us from the introductory material of Deuteronomy to the main part of the work. The word in our translation, “give heed” is the word Shema, the first verb in the great confession of Israel, “Hear, O Israel…” The verb asks us to listen, or to understand what is to follow.  There is purpose to Moses’ instructions, “so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that YHWH, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. There are consequences to this listening and taking heed.

The author/editor of this tradition has Moses warn the people to neither add nor subtract anything from these laws. Since this was most likely written later in the seventh century BCE, the laws that are reported here have been refurbished and edited for the present situation; therefore it is logical to request that no further changes be made. There is another interesting argument that is made and that is the one that appeals to the wisdom of these laws. Israel did not exist in the midst of other cultures that had no such codified law – to the contrary, they existed in the midst of a magnificent tradition of law making. Here the argument is that the people should be proud of their own legal tradition and writing, the gift of YHWH.

Breaking open Deuteronomy
1.     How did you learn what was “right” and what was “wrong”?
2.     What role does the Ten Commandments play in your life?
3.     What is the wisdom of the Law?

Psalm 15 Domine, quis habitabit?

LORD, who may dwell in your tabernacle? *
who may abide upon your holy hill?

Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right, *
who speaks the truth from his heart.

There is no guile upon his tongue;
he does no evil to his friend; *
he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.

In his sight the wicked is rejected, *
but he honors those who fear the LORD.

He has sworn to do no wrong *
and does not take back his word.

He does not give his money in hope of gain, *
nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things *
shall never be overthrown.

Dürer - The Sun of Righteousness

Some have seen in these verses a qualifying set of questions given to those would “abide upon your holy hill.” This seems unlikely, however. It seems to be a concise rehearsal of God’s law – a summary if you will recount that makes for righteousness. The author describes to the hearer “the blameless life.” First there is concern for the neighbor, either speaking badly of him or her, or doing no evil nor insulting them. This seems to be the main focus of the psalm, this righteousness that is bestowed upon a fellow human being.  Bribery is proscribed, and usury is condemned. Such behaviors are described as giving the righteous man or woman a stature honored by God.

Breaking open Psalm 15:
1.     What does righteousness mean to you?
2.     How are you righteous?
3.     How do you honor your neighbor?

James 1:17-27

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God's righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act-they will be blessed in their doing.

If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

How wonderful to have a series of readings from the Book of James, which Martin Luther condemned as “that strawy epistle.” Very little is known about the date of the book, but there seems to be some consensus that James is likely the author. Some see the book as predating Paul, while others see Pauline influence in the writing. The final opinion is divided. The theme of the book is “Wisdom” and it is shown in a variety of “essays” devoted to aspects of wisdom. The magnificence of the initial scene of our pericope is stunning, “coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” These thoughts frame the wisdom that is to be granted to the reader. The language that follows almost mirrors Moses’ Shema, “be quick to listen” and before that “you must understand.” The author contrasts hearing with doing, and advocates for the doing – namely “to care for orphans and widows in their distress.” It is not all altruism, however, for the reader is cautioned to “keep oneself unstained by the world.”

Breaking open James:
1.     How do you do Christianity?
2.     How do you understand Christianity?
3.     How do you care for others as a Christian?

St. Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" He said to them, "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

'This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.'

You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition."

Then he called the crowd again and said to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."

In a way, this pericope (and I advise you to read it in its entirety, rather than just relying on the snippets that the lectionary provides – see here) sits on the cusp of the great healing journeys in Galilee, and what follows in Jesus’ experience with Gentiles. We begin with the critical attitudes of the Pharisees who condemn what they see as a lax observance of the Mosaic Law. Jesus sees it as an opportunity to make commentary on the Law and its place in human life. He quotes Isaiah 29:13 as a comeback to their assertion that all of Israel, priest and people, needed to follow the precepts of the Holiness Code. Jesus wants his audience to understand that it is not external things or forces that make people impure, and Mark then provides a list of those things, which actually do provide for an unclean life. It is a perfect example how early Christianity adopted certain Stoic means of instruction. This use of Hellenistic devices prepares the reader for the next pericope, which is the story of the Syrophoenician Woman.

Breaking open the Gospel:
1.     What do you think makes you clean?
2.     What defiles you?
3.     How do you guard yourself against what makes you unclean?

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

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Questions and comments copyright © 2015, Michael T. Hiller

[1]Alter, R. (2009), The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, Kindle Location 3947.

18 August 2015

The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 16, 23 August 2015

I Kings 8:1, 6, 10-11, 22-30, 41-43
Psalm 84
Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18
Psalm 34:15-22

Ephesians 6:10-20
St. John 6:59-69

Background: The Covenant
Stemming from the covenants that marked everyday life in the Ancient Near East, the biblical covenants were also influenced by the form of the Hittite Treaty. All of them acknowledge the relative status of each of the parties, and the consequences of meeting or not meeting the provisos of the agreement. We see this in the “blessings and curses” that are found in the Bible, the latest of which was Luke’s version of Beatitudes, where the “Happy is” is contrasted with the “Woe to”. There are several covenants in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Noahic (see Genesis 9:8-17), the several covenants made with Abraham (see Genesis 12, 15, and 17). It is the Mosaic covenant (see Exodus 19-24), however, that not only guides the history of Israel, but also continues to guide western civilization to a greater or lesser degree. The priestly covenant undergirds the institution of the Aaronic priesthood, and the David covenant did similar service to the monarchy. See the first reading in Track 2 for Joshua’s take on the covenant.

1 Kings 8:[1, 6, 10-11], 22-30, 41-43

[Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the ancestral houses of the Israelites, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion. Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the LORD to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.]

Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands to heaven. He said, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart, the covenant that you kept for your servant my father David as you declared to him; you promised with your mouth and have this day fulfilled with your hand. Therefore, O LORD, God of Israel, keep for your servant my father David that which you promised him, saying, `There shall never fail you a successor before me to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children look to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.' Therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you promised to your servant my father David.

“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! Regard your servant's prayer and his plea, O LORD my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you said, `My name shall be there,' that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays toward this place. Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling place; heed and forgive.

 “Likewise when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a distant land because of your name -- for they shall hear of your great name, your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm-- when a foreigner comes and prays toward this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and so that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built.”

The purpose of Track 1 in the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) is to familiarize people with a greater view of the Hebrew Scriptures by means of a continuing reading from its books. Here we have a continuing history of Solomon, his building of the temple, and the subsequent installation of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies there. What is really startling in this passage is the material from verse 41 on. There is concern about the name of Israel, its reputation, amongst the nations of the earth. The attitude in verse 41 is quite a change, however, in that it advocates for a rather benevolent attitudes toward the Gentile nations. One wonders if this is a theological point in Kings, or rather a practical attitude in which matters of political and commercial interest are made livelier by such a position.

Breaking open I Kings
  1. What does the Ark of the Covenant symbolize to you?
  2. What are the ideals in this passage?
  3. Can these ideals speak to our time?
Psalm 84 or 84:1-6 Quam dilecta!

How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts! *
My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house
and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young; *
by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.

Happy are they who dwell in your house! *
they will always be praising you.

Happy are the people whose strength is in you! *
whose hearts are set on the pilgrims' way.

Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs, *
for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.

They will climb from height to height, *
and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.

LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; *
hearken, O God of Jacob.

Behold our defender, O God; *
and look upon the face of your Anointed.

For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, *
and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God
than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

For the LORD God is both sun and shield; *
he will give grace and glory;

No good thing will the LORD withhold *
from those who walk with integrity.

O LORD of hosts, *
happy are they who put their trust in you!

This psalm always brings a smile to my face. I recall a situation in college where birds having gotten into the rather spacious chapel, were being discouraged with helpings of poison seed placed there by the maintenance staff. One day I noticed the seed was gone, replaced by a sign quoting this psalm, “The sparrow has found her a house and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young; by the side of your altars, O Lord of hosts.”

This is a devotional piece on the Temple that is stated in startling terms. The longing and love of the place is described (in the Hebrew) in almost erotic terms. Such intensity is missing from our English translations. As a pilgrim psalm, it urges the pilgrim on with the intensity of emotion and longing. It is not only humankind who long for the temple, but birds as well, along with all the other pilgrims who make their way there. There are both urban, “They climb from height (rampart) to height,” and rural “(they) will find it a place of springs.” It reflects in a way the images of the 23rd psalm. God makes a place (the green pastures, and the temple) and we long to be there.

Breaking open Psalm 84:
  1. For what do you long in life?
  2. Where does the church fit into that vision?
  3. How do you love God?

Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18

Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel:

"Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

Then the people answered, "Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God."

The scene at Shechem, a cult center of Israel, is a renewal of the covenant between the tribes and God. Ancient history is reviewed, and it is more than a history of movement, but also a change of allegiance from the gods “across the river” to the God of Israel. Joshua forces them to see the comparison and to make the choice. It’s either the gods that their forefathers worshipped, or the gods of the Amorites (Canaanites) or the God of Israel. Joshua makes his choice and the people follow suit.

Breaking open Joshua:
  1. What religious choices have you made?
  2. What were the alternatives?
  3. Would you do it over again?

Psalm 34:15-22 Benedicam Dominum

The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, *
and his ears are open to their cry.

The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, *
to root out the remembrance of them from the earth.

The righteous cry, and the LORD hears them *
and delivers them from all their troubles.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted *
and will save those whose spirits are crushed.

Many are the troubles of the righteous, *
but the LORD will deliver him out of them all.

He will keep safe all his bones; *
not one of them shall be broken.

Evil shall slay the wicked, *
and those who hate the righteous will be punished.

The LORD ransoms the life of his servants, *
and none will be punished who trust in him.

This psalm has been our companion for several Sundays. In this section, the psalmist poses a choice similar to the one that Joshua poses, “Swerve from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.” Here it is not the gods so much as it is the attitude that one has while living life, and living in covenant with God. This is no Hallmark card however, for there are harsh realities that invade this righteous attitude of following the Lord. The vicissitudes of daily life are met with the comfort of the God who walks with us, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and will save those whose spirits are crushed.” Perhaps that is why the psalter, or at least parts of it, remains popular. It meets us at our worst hours.

Breaking open Psalm 34:
  1. In what ways have you “swerved from evil”?
  2. How has God met you in the dark parts of your life?
  3. How have you met others in their darkness?

Ephesians 6:10-20

Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

The long period of ethical exhortation has ended, and now we are to listen to the author as to a general prior to battle. The martial attitude is quite evident, “put on the whole armor of God.” Are we exhorted to fight against human authority? No. We are in battle against spiritual forces, which move us from faith in the Christ who triumphs to concerns of this world and its wealth. We have heard of the “Day of the Lord,” however here we are warned against that “Evil Day.” What we are armed with is a typical Pauline list of Christian virtues: truth, righteousness, the Gospel of peace, faith, and salvation. There is an “active waiting” filled with alertness and perseverance, guided by mutual prayer.

Breaking open Ephesians:
  1. What battles does God want you to fight?
  2. How will you fight them?
  3. What will happen if you lose?

St. John 6:56-69

Jesus said, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?" But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father."

 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

This is quite a remarkable event – Jesus teaching the people on the Bread of Life in a synagogue. We need to remember that at the time John was writing this Gospel, the Christians had already been cast out of the synagogues. And what is further, the subject matter would have been quite odious to a Jewish audience, “eat my flesh and drink my blood.” The disciples see the difficulty and object, “this teaching is difficult.” Jesus is declaring some freedom and asking that they take into themselves a fresh and life-giving spirit. John makes a comparison between the spirit and the flesh, one gives life, and the other is useless. The disciples are hung between the horns of a dilemma, and there are some who cannot make the transference – indeed one will betray Jesus.

Dwight Zscheile, in his book The Agile Church[1], talks about the church’s need to accept failure as a way to build knowledge and relationship so that the Gospel might be authentically proclaimed. Here we have the perfect example of failure that leads to a confession on the part of Peter. “Many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.” Jesus questions Peter, as he questions all of us. “Is this too much for you – do you need to leave.” Peter admits that there is no other way, which makes us wonder if we have really wrestled with the alternatives that Jesus has shown us.

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. Why are the Jews offended?
  2. Why do the disciples find this difficult?
  3. Have you ever left Jesus?

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

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Questions and comments copyright © 2015, Michael T. Hiller

[1]Zscheile, D. (2014), The Agile Church: Spirit-Led Innovation in an Uncertain Age, Church Publishing, New York, Kindle Edition.