Commentary

St. Francis, Oct. 4

A Pet Blessing for St. Francis day, Oct. 4 

The blessing -“Our pets have already blessed us. On St Francis Day, we get to bless our pets. St Francis of Assisi, who lived from 1182 to 1226, had a great love for animals and the environment. He understood the earth and everything in it as God’s good creation and believed that we are brothers and sisters with everything in creation. So on this day, we remember St Francis and thank God for the gift of our pets.

When you have a moment with your pet, offer this blessing written by Bishop Mark S. Sisk:

Live without fear. Your Creator loves you, made you holy, and has always protected you. May we follow the good road together, and may God’s blessing be with you always. Amen.


“Who was St. Francis? ” – a link collection

Brief biography

St. Francis movie on Youtube

“Brother Sun, Sister Moon”- trailer

Director Franco Zeffirelli’s “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” focuses on the early years of Francis of Assisi in this 1972 film.

Poem by Jan Richardson from the “Painted Prayerbook”

Addressing myths about St. Francis

St. Francis preaching to the birds

Rhonda Mawhood Lee: “Go a little crazy on St. Francis Day”, a sermon preached at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Durham, N.C

“It’s appropriate to go a little crazy on St. Francis Day, because during his own lifetime, many people thought Francesco Bernardone was insane.” 

Lectionary, Oct. 2, 2022 – Pentecost 17, Year C

Donatello – The Prophet Habakkuk (1386?-1466) 

The lectionary readings are here or individually:  

First Reading – Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Psalm – Psalm 37:1-10
Epistle – 2 Timothy 1:1-14
Gospel – Luke 17:5-10 

Today’s readings call us to believe in God’s ability to make the impossible possible. Habakkuk  is called to patience and faith in the face of incomprehensible evil. Paul encourages Timothy to endure in power and love, guarding the truth of the gospel. Jesus teaches that faith thrives in simple obedience in Luke’s Gospel

Faithfulness, endurance, patience—these are the themes of walking the faithful life with God. For the people in the prophet’s time, it was to endure in faithfulness through generations in exile. In the time of Jesus, it was for the disciples to find their way to trust in Jesus, because Jesus couldn’t just give them the ability to magically trust and be faithful. For Paul’s day and following, it was for the followers to continue to live in faith by what they had been taught and had witnessed. For us, we are called to be faithful because of our tradition, our teaching, but also still, hope for the New Day, which began long ago and we can read through the prophets, through the Gospels, and through the Epistles: hope that God will continue to do a new thing, and that we will remain faithful to God.

Everywhere we turn, we see the need for reform. Sometimes our society seems like a house we can’t get clean. We get one room in order, but then another confronts us with disarray. If we improve the environment, we still have problems with education. If we manage political reform, we are still troubled by the unjust allocation of resources or the abuse of children.

Our frustration with the public scene can be mirrored in our own lives. There we find the same ups and downs: a career achievement offset by a damaged relationship; progress toward a personal goal–the setback of an illness. How does faith view this roller coaster?

In today’s gospel, Luke consoles us with the good news that even minimal faith will suffice in the face of both worldly concerns and our own particular challenges. To the apostles who picture grandiose schemes, Jesus offers the image of a tiny seed. Perhaps we won’t reform the world in our lifetime, he seems to say. What matters more is the simple service, the generous response to the demands of our particular situation. Jesus uses the ordinary example of providing food and drink, a service many people perform so often we don’t even think about it. Faith transforms duty so that even our unconscious efforts nurture many.

Peace activist John Dear writes: “Without our faith, nothing happens. The mountainous violence of the world doesn’t budge. But with our faith–behold! All things become possible. Non-violence. Disarmament. Justice.” The scriptures offer us confidence, vision, reassurance. How do they clarify our own vision?

These passages point to the importance of living in the spirit of Jesus and aiming high in our faith journeys.  Aiming low leads to personal and social destruction.  In contrast, a life of faithful discipleship creates circles of well-being that transform families, communities, and nations

Read more of the lectionary…

The Rich Man and Lazarus: Warning Tale and Interpretive Key to Luke

From Trinity Church, New York. Article by Ched Myers

Link to article

“Indeed, a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office about income inequality over the last three decades shows that while total family wealth has more than doubled to $67 trillion in the U.S., “most average families haven’t seen a nickel of that gain”:

“In fact, the typical American family… actually lost wealth between 1989 and 2013, after adjusting for inflation. Families in the upper reaches of the American economy, by contrast, have done just swell. Families in the top 10 percent, the CBO calculates, have seen their net worth increase an average 153 %. Families in the top 1 percent have done the best of all. Their overall share of the nation’s wealth has jumped from 31 percent in 1989 to 37 % in 2013…. Some put the current top 1 percent share of the nation’s wealth as high as 42 %…

“Even the CBO admits that U.S. income inequality is vast, and growing. (To follow this thread I recommend you consult the stats, analysis and narratives posted regularly by our friends at www.inequality.org.) And it long ago outstripped the disparity of ancient Rome. So ironically (and tragically), the polarization between rich and poor—and all the social ills and conflicts associated
with it—is the context for both the ancient gospel and contemporary North American readers of it.

Pentecost 15, Sept. 18, 2022

I. Theme –  Using our resources—financial and otherwise—for justice and compassion

  
 

“Parable of the Shrewd Manager – Coptic (Egypt) ” 

The lectionary readings are here or individually:  

First Reading – Amos 8:4-7
Psalm – Psalm 113
Epistle – 1 Timothy 2:1-7
Gospel – Luke 16:1-13 

Today’s readings call us to use our resources—financial and otherwise—for justice and compassion. They reflect on the social consequences of turning away from God and the possibility that prayer and God-centered values can be a source of health in our personal and corporate lives. A transformed mind may lead over the long haul to transformed social systems.

Amos condemns the callousness of those who observe rituals but set their hearts on greed and dishonesty. Paul urges prayers for peace, godliness and dignity, made possible by Christ, who bridges the gap between God and humanity. In Jesus’ story, the master appreciates the shrewdness of an unfaithful servant.

The parable from the Gospel also presents most congregations with serious challenges in terms of values, ethics, and priorities.  You cannot serve God and money.  One has to come first; one has to be the lens through which you make your personal and corporate decisions.  Studies suggest that great wealth does not lead to greater happiness.  In light of the Hebraic prophetic scriptures, wealth without justice and compassion leads to personal and corporate destruction.  Wealth without consideration of God’s Shalom and purposes beyond our self-interest leads to poverty and pain.

Read more…

Lectionary Pentecost 17, Year C, Sept 11, 2022

I. Theme –  Punishment and Grace

The lectionary readings are here or individually:  

First Reading – Exodus 32:7-14
Psalm – Psalm 51:1-11
Epistle – 1 Timothy 1:12-17
Gospel – Luke 15:1-10 

Today’s readings praise God’s merciful pursuit of God’s people even as they sin. The readings contrast punishment and grace. In Exodus  God forgives the Israelites’ spiritual impatience and lack of trust that lead them to turn from God to an idol .  The Epistle and Gospel highlight God’s graceful care, which encompasses the lost and sinful. Paul offers himself as an example of one found by God, transformed by the power of God’s mercy. In the gospel, Jesus tells stories that illustrate God’s great joy over each sinner who repents.

If God’s grace welcomes back the apostle Paul, despite his persecution of early Christians, will it welcome back the wealthy whose largess has come at the expense of the poor. Grace transforms the past, and opens us to become new creations.  We still may have to face the consequences of the past; but grace leads to new behaviors and openness to expanded divine possibilities for ourselves and the good Earth.

Jesus makes clear in the Gospel that everyone falls within the shadow of salvation, regardless of their past behavior and place in society. What Jesus is doing is placing worth and value on what others had deemed worthless. The Jewish mystical tradition proclaims that when you save one soul, you save the world.  This wisdom provides a creative lens through which to read the parable of the lost sheep. 

Each one of us is made in the image of God; therefore, each one of us is worthy. Because of that, we are valued. We belong to God. And God will seek us out to the ends of the earth as a lost sheep, into all the cracks and darkness and lonely, lost places as a lost coin. We are not forgotten to God, even when we fall into despair, into addiction, into hopelessness.

Read more…

Pentecost 13, Year C, September 4, 2022

I. Theme – Exploring the meaning of discipleship and commitment.

  

"Climb That Hill"

The lectionary readings are here or individually:  

First Reading – Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Psalm – Psalm 1
Epistle – Philemon 1-21
Gospel – Luke 14:25-33 

Today’s readings explore the meaning of discipleship and commitment. In Deuteronomy , Moses challenges God’s people to “choose life” by remaining faithful to God. In his personal letter to Philemon, Paul disarms the slaveholder’s authority by bidding him to receive the slave as a dear brother. In today’s gospel, Jesus describes a disciple as one who knows the cost and is willing to make a radical surrender to Christ.

The Gospel says, "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."

Hate our parents? Reject our spouses? Deny our children? The traditional hyperbole of today’s gospel may have been designed to separate the serious followers from the crowd. Whenever huge throngs gather, we can assume a variety of motives. Did they follow Jesus from curiosity, hope for healing, need for security, peer pressure or self-interest? He dispels all motives but one: radical commitment to a way of life that carries an exorbitant cost.

The final verse of today’s gospel reading (Luke 14:33) reiterates Luke’s concern that possessions might be an obstacle to Christian commitment. His concern can be interpreted in many ways. Jesus was addressing people who didn’t have any possessions, so why would it pose a problem to them? Luke Johnson argues in The Gospel of Luke that the language of possessions is symbolic, referring not so much to wealth (which can be used for good or ill) as to attitudes. Jesus wants vulnerable people, ready to surrender their assumptions and find a new identity in him. On the other hand, he rejects those who cling to comfortable ideas and who resist transformation.

Yet to over-emphasize symbolism would blunt the evangelist’s sharp social criticism. He wrote for a wealthy community, or for well-to-do Gentiles concerned that conversion might mean grave economic loss. He challenged them to continue Jesus’ welcome to the economically poor and to work for a reversal of the social order that would bring justice to all.

While Luke does not offer a definite answer to the problem of possessions, he suggests a direction that is fleshed out in Paul’s letter to Philemon. There we find a concrete example of the radical commitment Jesus demanded. Paul has the audacity to ask a slave owner to give up a costly possession; in this case, a human being. Furthermore, he invites a shift in attitude: that Philemon see Onesimus not as slave but as brother. His plea combines both elements of Luke’s message: relinquishment of possessions, change of heart. If we have the courage to apply the message to our own lives, we probably respond with an honest “Ouch.”

There are other thoughts about living a life according to God.  There are two ways to live: to live into God’s ways, or to live into the way of the wicked. It is clear in the Scriptures that the way of the wicked is to abandon God. Do we abandon God in exchange for a set of rigorous rules? Do we abandon God in exchange for worldly success, comfort and wealth? Do we abandon God to be around people who think, look and act like us, where we are comfortable? Or do we seek God’s ways, which are not always easy but are often hard—to be among people who are different, to be open to learning new ways of thinking, to stand against war, injustice, and poverty? One way is more straightforward and easy, but serves ourselves. The other way is harder, but serves others, and is concerned about the whole community—the whole kingdom—the whole reign of God.

Read more…

Lectionary August 28, Pentecost 12

I. Theme –  Our lives should exhibit humility and love

Feast of Simon the Pharisee” – Peter Paul Rubens (1618-1620)

The lectionary readings are here or individually:  

First Reading – Sirach 10:12-18 or Proverbs 25:6-7
Psalm – Psalm 112
Epistle – Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Gospel – Luke 14:1, 7-14 

Today’s readings remind us that our Christian way of life is characterized by humility and love. The wisdom teacher Sirach warns his readers to avoid arrogance, violence and pride. The author of Proverbs counsels about having a humble attitude and being content with one’s own social status. The author of Hebrews urges readers to make Christian love a practical reality in their lives.

At a banquet, Jesus teaches the meaning of true humility.Jesus’ teachings on humility challenge us, and cause us to go deeper—it is not enough to humble ourselves in the presence of others, but to actively reach out and invite those who would not be invited to join in. We are called to live out our witness, especially when it is hard and goes against the grain of the world. How does the invitation of Jesus challenge us at the table as we celebrate?

Some of us may know the honor of sitting at the head table at some social or business function. Because recognition of our importance is a coveted honor, the scene in Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast is familiar to us. Who has not looked for his or her place card near the host and been disappointed to find other names at the seats of honor?

The twinge we feel when we do not make the head table at important meetings reveals the fact that we still have a trace of the old nature in us. We want to look rich before people; we forget how rich Christ has made us before God.

Our earthly status is always insecure; it waxes and wanes, and the retirement party inevitably comes. Newcomers take our place, and we are expected to go fishing–or at least stay out of the way of our successors. Not so in God’s service. Once a saint, always a saint here. We are never retired from work in the kingdom. Our future is to be more glorious than is our present in God’s service.

God continues to give freely to us who are poor in what matters most. Our attempts to emulate God’s generosity and hospitality are received and honored when done in the spirit of humility that befits God’s image in us. Then, like God, we too can enjoy the company of those who can never repay us.

Read more…

Beheading of John the Baptist, Aug. 29

Matthew has told us of the beheading of John the Baptist – killed because John denounced Herod Antipas’ marriage to his brother Philip’s wife when Philip was still alive (a violation of Jewish law). Jesus is reeling over this.

His reaction is to withdraw privately to a desert-like, remote place. So Jesus withdraws to be alone with his thoughts and his sorrows – in a “deserted place” to regroup, to recharge. But it doesn’t work, of course. The eager crowds are on him – there is no rest for the weary – and he can’t let them down since he is compassionate. Out of his own heartache, he bring riches.

This is the story of the feeing of the 5000. It is the only one of Jesus’ miracles that gets recorded in all four gospels.

Read more…

Lectionary, Aug 21, 2022 – Pentecost 11

I. Theme – The universality of God’s invitation to wholeness and the difficulty of responding to it.

Woman set free from ailment

The lectionary readings are here or individually:

First Reading – Isaiah 58:9b-14
Psalm – Psalm 103:1-8
Epistle – Hebrews 12:18-29
Gospel – Luke 13:10-17

Today’s readings remind us of the universality of God’s invitation to wholeness and the difficulty of responding to it. Isaiah identifies some characteristics of the right relationship with God. The author of Hebrews reminds us that the trials we undergo, though painful, come from the hand of a loving Father who is training us in holiness. Jesus’ words and actions reveal the tension between God’s desire for healing and our need for genuine conversion in order not to hinder God’s plan.

We are all too often concerned about rules—either rules such as the Ten Commandments, which throughout tradition we have assumed were passed down from God—or unspoken rules in society, such as who is in and who is out, who gets to speak and who must be silenced. We become so consumed by rules that we forget the original reason for them. The Sabbath was a gift from God to the people, but some leaders had forgotten and made the Sabbath into following rules. Jeremiah didn’t think he could speak because he was only a boy, and only elders (being men) could speak in public, but God called him to do so anyway. God shows us time and again there is another way—when we love one another, show compassion, have mercy, and do justice for others—we are following God’s ways much more than following a list of rules. The writer of Hebrews shows us that Jesus fulfilled a rule—the rule of sacrifice—in order to break it forever. And so must we follow the rule—the law—of love, in order to break the chains that keep us from loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Read more…

Gospel – “Woman, You are Set Free”

Here is the scripture from Luke 13:10-17 for this week

Jesus continues on the road to Jerusalem but there is a change in venue. Jesus had been speaking to disciples and large crowds. Now, he appears in "one of the synagogues." His presence in a synagogue is his first since leaving Galilee, and he will not visit another in Luke’s gospel. The conflict with Jewish leaders he will experience then is foreshadowed this story.

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