Watching for the Morning of September 4, 2016
The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost:
Proper 18 / Lectionary 23
Jesus’ relentless challenge of the social order continues this week as he spells out to the crowd the consequences of enjoining the privileged to invite “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” to their banquets. Banquets functioned to maintain the social fabric through ties of kinship and friendship and by reinforcing the honor status of the host and guests. Jesus’ teaching to invite those on society’s margins jeopardized the safety and security of the family by bringing shame on the family, undermining their position in society and incurring the hostility of their social class. ‘Love’ and ‘hate’ are words expressing attachment and detachment. Those who would follow Jesus must detach from the social system of this world in order to show allegiance to the new order that is dawning in Christ. The reign of God welcomes all, feeds all, forgives all. One cannot live the kingdom and yet maintain the ties of security through family position and wealth. “Count the cost,” Jesus says, “Count the cost.”
With this radical challenge comes the preaching of Moses declaring that God’s way “is not too hard for you,” but is in fact the way of life. We hear the psalmist describe the one who shows fidelity to God (and neighbor) as a tree “planted by streams of water,” drawing in the water of life in contrast to “the wicked” (those who lack fidelity to God and neighbor) who are “like chaff that the wind drives away.” And we hear Paul writing to Philemon, setting before him the need to welcome his runaway slave, Onesimus, (whom Philemon had the legal right to punish even to death) as a brother in Christ.
The world will staunchly defend the social order, but Jesus calls us to be a new creation, citizens of the age to come when all creation is reconciled to the Lord and Giver of Life. There is a cost to discipleship – but a greater cost for ignoring “so great a salvation.”
The Prayer for September 4, 2016
Lord to whom our lives belong,
grant us courage to follow where you lead,
bearing the burdens of a broken world,
daring to speak the word of hope,
and living the love that lays down its life
for the sake of the world.
The Texts for September 4, 2016
First Reading: Deuteronomy 30:11-20
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.” – In a sermon set in the mouth of Moses, speaking to the Israelites as they prepare to enter the promised land, the preacher sets before them the choice of faithfulness and life or disobedience and all its consequences.
Psalmody: Psalm 1
“They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season.” –With this psalm that opens the psalter, the poet speaks of the enduring quality of the righteous (those faithful to God and neighbor) in contrast to the ephemeral existence of the wicked who are like chaff swept away by the wind.
Second Reading: Philemon 1-21
“Though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love.” – Paul writes to Philemon on behalf of a runaway slave who has come to Paul and become a follower of Christ. Paul is sending him back to his master with instructions for Philemon to receive him as a brother.
Gospel: Luke 14:25-33
“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” – The words love and hate convey a different sense to the first century than to ours, but the words were shocking then as now. The kingdom of God, the reign of grace, requires our ultimate allegiance. We should count the cost.