The Least, First

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Archive for the ‘Lectionary’ Category

Readings for Sunday, November 2, 2008

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Proper 26 November 2, 2008
Matthew 23:1-12; 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13; Micah 3:5-12; Psalm 43

Matthew 23
Religious Fashion Shows

1-3 Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. “The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer. Read the rest of this entry »

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October 30, 2008 at 8:58 pm

The main thing [readings for Sunday, October 26]

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Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln famously said (or is famously said to have said) that if he could find a church whose credo was the golden rule, he’d join it.  He never found one.

Religious leaders confronted Jesus with a question of essence rather like that.  You’d think it would be the first thing Christians learn, and that for which they’re mostly known.

“Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”

Jesus said, “”Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ 38This is the most important, the first on any list. 39But there is a second to set alongside it: “Love others as well as you love yourself.’ 40These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” Read the rest of this entry »

Give to Caesar what’s his (readings for Sunday, Oct 19)

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The Imperial Denarius

The Roman Imperial Denarius

I hear from zealous anti-tax folks from time to time, who usually pop by to take issue with my Poverty, Government, and the Bible essay.

Some are eager to prove that government shouldn’t be involved in helping poor people—catch your breath and plunge in here—because taxation is theft because it’s taken against our will and since taxation is theft it obviously isn’t God’s plan for governments to help the poor because God would not be pleased by stealing the money it would take to do so nor by helping the poor against the will of the stingy.

Well, hokum. Read the rest of this entry »

How odd the Bible is. (readings for Sunday, October 11)

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The oddness of the Bible—its miles-away foreign-ness—is, perhaps, too little allowed. Take this week’s batch of it:

Isaiah gives us a thrilling hymn of the end of tyranny and want. Perfect!  But he begins it in a destroyed city.

Psalm Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Psalm Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Jesus invents a story of a king who can’t get invited guests to show up at his son’s wedding—finally replacing them with homeless and helpless folk—quite a wonderful tale!  And then he tosses a guy who isn’t dressed right.  But wait – how could any of his lately-discovered guests be dressed right?  And isn’t it a little caddish to get so put out about it?

Why?  Save it, preacher:  Don’t give me that this means this and this means this. These stories are nearly impenetrable, and we fail the task of adequately communicating them if we make them simple: Jesus did not.

Impenetrable—but not completely so.  The process of spilling all their odd parts onto the table before me and wondering, “What on earth?” is among the richest pleasures of life.  And it is there amidst that strange mess that God defies expectations and reveals himself, refusing to yield mere information, but speaking in a way more wonderful.

What will we find here? Not much, if we simplify.  Moralisms.

But if we let it stand with all its oddnesses, and let the oddnesses themselves become the clues?

Well, in that case, who can say?

Proper 23 A: October 11, 2008

Exodus 32:1-14 or Isaiah 25:1-9; Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23 or Psalm 23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14

Isaiah 25: God’s Hand Rests on This Mountain

1-5 God, you are my God. I celebrate you. I praise you.
You’ve done your share of miracle-wonders, Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

October 6, 2008 at 11:31 pm

Out from bigotry (sermon for August 17, 08)

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And a bit about white privilege …

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

1 This is what the LORD says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.[…]

Something’s about to happen – what is it [a revelation of God], and so what do we do? Maintain justice,” Isaiah has God saying, “and do what is right.”

6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant-
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.

Who’s this about now? Foreigners. And those who will follow God from any land (though following God is described here in Jewish terms, of course), gain a rich welcome to the presence of God.  Watch:

Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

I love it!  “A house of prayer for all nations.”  Is this just about white middle-class Americans like me?  Nope. Read the rest of this entry »

He doesn’t even hate his enemies! (Readings for 21 Sep 08)

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Jonah has pity on the gourd

Steinhardt: Jonah has pity on the gourd

The other thing the whale swallows in the book of Jonah is the story.

“Area man”—as The Onion often lampoons—would say if interviewed: “Jonah, yeah, that’s the one about the guy who gets swallowed by a whale.”  See?  Fraternity boys eat goldfish, only in reverse. No story.

The whale, though, is a bit player (ho ho).  Jonah, the protagonist and representative of the religious “in” group, is an ethnocentric bigot. God sends him to tell a despised enemy nation to repent; the nation does. Jonah hates it.  Burning sulfur was more what he had in mind.  Big disappointment.

Big story, too.  Apparently wanting to see one’s enemies dead rather than blessed is not a new way of resisting God.

I’m reminded of the German theologian who said, “God doesn’t hate my enemies; he doesn’t even hate his enemies!”

May we humans become so.  Read the climax of the Jonah story, along with this week’s Sunday readings, just below.

God saw what they had done, that they had turned away from their evil lives. He did change his mind about them. What he said he would do to them he didn’t do.

Jonah was furious. He lost his temper. He yelled at God, Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

September 18, 2008 at 7:58 pm

Is Jesus MIA? (Readings for September 14, 2008)

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Jesus Christ is, of course, what’s missing from Christianity.

We have positions aplently—”Biblical” positions—or so we’re told by experts. Perhaps we should call our religion “Biblianity.” For Jesus Christ, incarnated again in his ever-new Body, the church, and lived out through the love and acceptance of his apprentices for each other and the whole world—well, Jesus Christ expressed that way is rarer than Nazarenes at a bingo hall.

Mohandas Gandhi

Mohandas Gandhi

It’s not a new problem.  And those who don’t call themselves Christians often see it more clearly than those who do. For example, consider these insights of that spiritual giant Mohandas Gandhi:

  • I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
  • If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.

Imagine. He’s not suggesting proselyting, but rather simply that Jesus Christ lived-out in public and private is mighty appealing.  Which is, of course, just what Jesus did.

So in this week’s readings, Jesus explains one element of what that would look like.  Then Paul brings it home, expecting a new kind of normal for we who follow Jesus together.  Let him take your breath away.

Hope you get to hear it preached somewhere this Sunday.

Proper 19 (24) A; September 14, 2008

Hebrew Bible: Exodus 14:19-31 [Moses parts the sea]
or Genesis 50:15-21 [Joseph forgives his brothers]
Psalm: Psalm 114 [after Israel left Egypt]
or Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21 [Moses’ song of victory]
or Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13 [God is sheer mercy and grace, slow to anger]
Epistle: Romans 14:1-12 [Welcome the weaker brother]
Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35 [How many times shall I forgive? Parable of unmerciful servant]

A Story About Forgiveness

21At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Read the rest of this entry »