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Bishop Michael Rinehart

Proper 13, Pentecost 8C – August 4, 2019

Hosea 11:1-11 Assyria will rule over Israel because they refuse to repent.

OR 

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23  Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? 23For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.

Psalm 107:1-9, 43 Consider the Lord’s loyal love. God delivers.

OR

Psalm 49:1-12 – Hear this all you people, rich and poor together. There is no amount of money worth your life. The wise and the foolish both die and leave their wealth to others. Do not be afraid when some become rich, when the wealth of their houses increases. For when they die they will carry nothing away; their wealth will not go down after them. Mortals cannot abide in their pomp; they are like the animals that perish.

Colossians 3:1-11 – Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. There is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Luke 12:13-21 – The Parable of the Rich Fool. ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

 

 

 

Ecclesiastes 1-2: Vanity of Vanities

 

Ecclesiastes, קֹהֶלֶת (qōheleṯ), Ἐκκλησιαστής in the Greek Septuagint, was likely composed 450–200 BCE. Tradition holds King Solomon as the author, but the document is too late for that, historically. The book is anonymous. The author does not identify herself. Ecclesiastes is quoted by Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Abraham Lincoln, Burns, Hemmingway, George Bernard Shaw, Ray Bradbury, and Pete Seeger and the Byrds in their hit, Turn, Turn, Turn. 

This week’s reading includes selections from the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes. This text is particularly appropriate, along with Psalm 49, if one is tackling the Luke 12 Rich Young Ruler gospel text. 

2 Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity…

12 I, the Teacher, when king over Israel in Jerusalem, 13 applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. 14 I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind…

18 I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me 19—and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22 What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? 23 For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.

The theme is clear. Everyone dies, both the wise and the foolish. You work your whole life long and then end up leaving everything to those who have not had to work for it. This is pointless. 

Job ruminates on the same idea (Job 1:21):

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there…

Psalm 49 picks up identical themes. Note verse 10. The wise and the foolish die and leave their wealth to others.

1 Hear this, all you peoples; give ear, all inhabitants of the world,

2 both low and high, rich and poor together.

3 My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.

4 I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will solve my riddle to the music of the harp.

5 Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of my persecutors surrounds me,

6 those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches?

7 Truly, no ransom avails for one’s life, there is no price one can give to God for it.

8 For the ransom of life is costly, and can never suffice

9 that one should live on forever and never see the grave.

10 When we look at the wise, they die; fool and dolt perish together and leave their wealth to others.

11 Their graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they named lands their own.

12 Mortals cannot abide in their pomp; they are like the animals that perish.

Abraham Heschel says the Jewish people invented the prophetic way of being in the world. He says it was an ethical breakthrough for the human species. This prophetic tradition calls for justice, concern for the poor and marginalized. These passages from Ecclesiastes, Job and Psalm 49 fall in line with that prophetic tradition. 

We work our whole lives, but in the end death comes, and much of our work comes to naught. We plant, harvest and gather our wealth into barns, but rich and poor come to the same end. So why not look to higher things?

The author of Colossians encourages the same thing. Set your sights higher.

2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. (Colossians 3:2-4)

Jesus talks about the birds in the Sermon on the Mount. They neither plant, nor harvest nor gather into barns, and yet God takes care of them. God will take care of you too. So don’t worry so much about your life. Stop scrambling, chasing after wind. Seek first the kingdom of God. Higher things.

 

 

 

Luke 12: The Rich Fool and Barn-Building

 

 

Let me start with a reminder that we are in the “travel narrative” section of Luke (roughly chapters 10-19). We are between his earlier ministry in Galilee to the north and moving toward the events that will take place in Jerusalem, in the region of Judea, to the south. Jesus has been rejected by a Samaritan village (Luke 9) and he has sent the 70 out (Luke 10). He has been questioned on how to inherit eternal life, and drawn out the answer: Love God and neighbor. He has answered the question of “who is my neighbor” by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. Then Jesus encountered Mary and Martha, which focused on loving the Lord. The Good Samaritan focused on loving neighbor. Last week we had the teaching on prayer, and the story of the Friend at Midnight. 

Mikeal Parsons suggested that these were Jesus’ teachings on three classical virtues: 

  1. philanthropy (Good Samaritan), 
  2. hospitality (Mary and Martha), and 
  3. friendship (Friend at Midnight). 

This week and the next, we have teachings on stewardship, or use of wealth. I would suggest that we use these Sundays to talk about how we use our God-given resources for God’s purposes in the world. We need to have the courage to talk about one of the taboos in our society: money. If the only time we talk about money is when it’s time for the budget, people might think that’s all we care about. They might miss the reason Jesus talks so much about use of wealth: spiritual care. 

Here’s this Sunday’s story from Luke 12:13-21. As usual Jesus tells a story in response to an ethical encounter. 

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

Our story begins with a classic triangle. We discussed triangles a couple of weeks ago in a story of two other siblings: Mary and Martha. Martha told Jesus to tell her sister Mary to come and help her. Jesus didn’t take the bait then, and he doesn’t now. He was gentle with Martha. Not so much in this story of two other siblings.

“Tell my brother to split my inheritance with me.” He has a case. His brother should share the inheritance. The boys would split the inheritance, with the elder brother, as the new patriarch, inheriting a double portion. 

Nevertheless, Jesus will not intervene. Jesus’ response is, to paraphrase, “Who made me the boss of you?” Well, he is a rabbi, a teacher, they are probably thinking. He’s too smart to get sucked into the family squabble. Too many families squabble about inheritances. It can destroy relationships. Parsons (Luke: Paieia series) says that in the Greco-Roman agrarian society, wealth was more likely to be inherited than earned. The death of a relative may be your only shot. Jesus chooses not to arbitrate a domestic dispute. 

Jesus recognizes the issue for what it is: greed. His response to the plaintiff: Beware of greed. Jesus is always warning us of the danger wealth and greed present to our spiritual lives – heck, to our lives, period. Instead of taking sides, Jesus does what any good rabbi would do. He tells a story.

A man (Ἀνθρώπου), perhaps better rendered a person, has a bumper crop, more than can be stored. What does one do when one has more than one needs? Save it for a rainy day. Can one ever have enough? Can one be completely financially secure? So, the wealthy landowner tears down old barns, and builds bigger ones, to store the (perishable) crops. Then the landowner sits back and tells his soul (ψυχη), “Soul, you’re set for life. Eat, drink and be merry.” How right he was. He was set for the rest of his life, which be only a few more hours.

God says, “Fool, tonight your soul is required of you.” The word translated “fool” is αφρον. φρονέω means “to think.” So αφρον means “unthinking.” From the Classical Greek of Homer to the Koine Greek of the New Testament, αφρον can mean thoughtless, mindless, senseless, arrogant, filled with pride, foolish, presumptuous. It is most often translated “foolish” in modern English. 

We never know when our lives will end. We don’t like to think about it. Even though everyone else in history has died, we prefer to think we will be the exception. A friend of mine, a beloved Methodist minister, recently received news that his cancer is back. It’s a tough blow. Some have time to come to terms with their mortality. Others will die instantly and never know what hit them. What if today was your last day? How would that affect the way you allocate your resources? Do you have a plan for how your assets will be allocated when you die? Do you have a will? If you want a say, you need a will, otherwise the state will decide for you. 

The story is about greed. We know this because Jesus said so: “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

Be. On. Your. Guard.

Against greed. 

Augustine translates it, “Be on your guard against all covetousness.” Think the 9th and 10th commandments. 

Jesus has already warned us, earlier in Luke’s gospel. Unlike Matthew, Luke’s Beatitudes are followed by woes (Luke 6):

‘But woe to you who are rich,

   for you have received your consolation. 

‘Woe to you who are full now,

   for you will be hungry.

‘Woe to you who are laughing now,

   for you will mourn and weep.

Nothing sucks the life out of our spiritual lives like greed. As Jesus will say later in this chapter, a text that we will read next week: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” If you are going to love the Lord with all your heart, and your neighbor has yourself, your money will follow. Actually, Jesus says it the other way. “Follow the money.” Wherever your money goes, your heart will follow. That’s probably your god. Our spending choices reveal our priorities. More about that next week. 

Life does not consist of your belongings. Life is more than stuff. You are more than your stuff. Stuff is not bad, but if it becomes the center of our lives, God is dethroned. 

Jesus has just taught his disciples to pray for their daily bread: food, clothing and all we need from day to day. He now warns them that life is more than food and clothing. Consider the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest, and yet God cares for them. Matthew use the more general “birds of the air.” Luke chooses the raven, an unclean animal (Lev. 11:15). Coveting and greed will kill you in the end. In the next verses which we will read next week, Jesus will offer an antidote to our ever-so-natural tendency toward greed. 

Patristic commentary on this text supports this interpretation. Those who spoke the language in which the New Testament was written and lived in cultures similar to those of the authors, hear in this text a critique of greed. Our Catholic colleagues tend to reference Patristics more often than we do. Luther was immersed in them. If you would like to find the thoughts of Augustine, Ambrose, Cyril, Bede and others on Luke quickly, here is one website you might check out.

This commentary by Thomas Aquinas takes several verses at a time and then offers commentary by various ancient writers. 

“What shall I do? asks the farmer.” Gregory offers, “O adversity, thou child of plenty.” Adversity is the byproduct of plenty for Gregory. It does strike me how much anxiety we have in our culture. For a society that has so much, we seem to be in chronic distress. 

Gregory also adds, “If everyone receiving what is sufficient for his own necessity would leave what remains to the needy, there would be no rich or poor.”

Basil: “Art not thou then a robber, for counting as thine own what thou hast received to distribute?”

Basil: “It is the bread of the famished that thou receivest, the garment of the naked which thou hoardest in thy chest, the shoe of the barefooted which rots in thy possession, the money of the penniless which thou hast buried in the earth.”

Chrysostom: “Now it behooves us not to indulge in delights which fattening the body make lean the soul…”

Let us not over-spiritualize this parable. The earliest commentators on the Bible did not.

The rich farmer wants to store perishable crops, but it is he himself that is perishing. He would have done better to share his bread with the hungry. God calls him a “fool.” 

 

So what are you doing with your wealth? Are you storing perishables while you yourself are perishing? How are you giving to the needy, whom Jesus constantly brings up in the gospels? What do you do when you have a “bumper crop?” That is, what do you do when you get a bonus, or a raise, or a significant job opportunity that pays more than your current job? 

It stands, of course, that the preacher must lead by example. Our preaching about generosity, sharing, simplicity, and attending to those in need, will sound hollow if our lives preach a different message.

 

One last thought. 

Does Jesus discourage saving in this passage? It may seem like it at first brush. The Scriptures as a whole, however, encourage saving, just not hoarding. Joseph is commended, in the Genesis story, for interpreting the dream with the seven fat cows, and seven lean cows. He is praised for saving during the time of plenty, so that the people have food during the ensuing seven years of famine. If we are called to care for the poor, we need to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Jesus does not say anything bad about saving. He does, however, have a running critique of materialism. 

Save, but then use your resources to bless the poor. In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Jesus does not criticize the rich man for having wealth. He criticizes him for not using his wealth to bless those who suffering, right in front of his nose. Jesus is not addressing saving for a rainy day, in my view. More likely, Jesus is critiquing hoarding, and materialism. So don’t ditch your 401k just yet. If you’re following Christ, make sure you are serving those in need. 

Proper 12, Pentecost 7C – July 28, 2019

Hosea 1:2-10Hosea marries a prostitute name Gomer and has three children: Jezreel, No-Pity and Not-My-People.
OR
Genesis 18:20-32 – Abraham negotiates with God. God agrees to not destroy Sodom if there are ten righteous.

Psalm 85 Will you stay mad at us forever, O Lord?
OR
Psalm 138 – I will give thanks with all my heart.

Colossians 2:6-15 (16-19) – Continue to live your lives in Christ. In him the fullness of deity dwells. You were buried with him in baptism, and raised with him by faith.

Luke 11:1-13 – The Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ teaching on prayer. Be persistent. The friend at midnight.

 

 

Hosea 1 – Not My People

 

The first option for the Old Testament lesson is Hosea 1, in which Hosea marries a prostitute named Gomer. They have three children named Jezreel (a valley, once a vineyard, where Jehu’s purge/massacre took place), Lo-ruhamah (No-pity, Rejected or Abused) and Lo-ammi (Not-my-people.) These are obviously symbolic, not actual names. Israel was not restored by Assyria as Judah was by Babylon. They felt rejected, and no longer God’s people. Those who cannot see the Scriptures as allegory will struggle with this one. The text says, “…the Lord said to Hosea, ‘Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.’”

 J. Clinton McCann, professor at Eden Seminary in St. Louis, warns us not to apply this passage to 21st century marriages. The historical Hosea is an enigma. What we have here is an interpretive retelling, not a biography.

Hosea chides Israel for having forsaken God. This has resulted in violence, economic exploitation, and more if we read the first few verses of Hosea 4. Even the land, the animals, the birds and the fish are suffering as a result. 

This passage, and the vast book of Hosea are simply judgment without an opportunity for repentance. Only God can redeem the situation. However, we do get a word of hope and forgiveness in verse 10, though it is addressed to Israel, not Judah:

Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”

If you are preaching on the Gospel lesson, Luke 11, you may be better off using the Genesis 18 passage for the Old Testament lesson. Abraham persistently begs God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah. The theme of persistence in prayer is helpful when considering Luke 11.

 

 

 

Genesis 18 – Sodom and Gomorrah

 

Sara Koenig, professor at Seattle Pacific University, suggests we start the text a few verses earlier. Our pericope begins with verse 20 in which Abraham asks God if sweeping away the righteous along with the unrighteousness makes sense. In verse 17, God is talking to himself, something God tends to do in Genesis. Keep in mind the plural of God in Genesis 1: “Let us make humankind in our image.” God: “Should I hide what I am about to do from Abe?” God “Nah. After all, I chose him so that his descendants will do justice, and righteousness.” 

 

The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice; so that the Lord may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

God is just and righteous, so destroying a city with righteous people in it isn’t right. Abraham models one way to pray: Arguing with God. Jesus also modeled this: “Lord, let this cup pass from me.”

God appears to Abraham in the form of three men. Again, a complicated God, perhaps monotheistic (or becoming so in Israel’s evolving theology) but nevertheless multifaceted. Trinitariam, some will read into this text.

By the way, your congregation thinks it already knows what Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin is. In fact, it is not ever spelled out here. Koenig points out neither Genesis 19 nor Ezekiel 16 are in our lectionary. We need to study them. The theme of Genesis 19 is the city’s mistreatment of its divine visitors. As we will discuss below when we tackle the gospel reading, hospitality is sacred duty in antiquity. One must provide food and shelter to travelers, who are quite possibly divine visitors (Hebrews 13), or God will allow calamity to come upon the community. When an earthquake or volcano destroys a city, it is assumed they had a divine visitation and rejected the visitor. Likewise, failure to care for the poor, the sojourner, the orphan and the widow, could incur divine wrath (Matthew 25).

Ezekiel 16:49 spells out Sodom’s sin quite clearly, and it’s not what your people think:

This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.

How we love to smack our lips on the luscious sexual sins, especially in this country with its Puritan roots. Consider the story of the prodigal son. When North Americans are asked why the wandering younger son was hungry, they usually say because he wasted his money on Prostitutes. Asked participants in a Bible study in Africa, and they will point out what the text says: a great famine arose in the land. How quick we are to attribute calamity as punishment for sexual sins. 

Sodom’s sin is greed: not caring for the poor and needy. 

Jaqueline E. Lapsey says Abraham appeals to God’s better nature. “The better angels of our nature,” another Abraham once said in an inaugural address. Abraham pleads/prays, and God responds in Genesis 18:25-26: 

Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?

 

And the Lord said, ‘If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake…’

Notice he does not say he will spare the city. Just forgive it. They may be one and the same. They may not.

Then Abraham bargains God down. 50? How about 45? 40? 30? 20? Bargaining with God is often maligned, but perhaps it is an important part of life. Perhaps it is a legitimate form of prayer. Persistence is the theme.

On, then, to the gospel text. 

 

 

 

 

Luke 11:1-13 –
Prayer and the Friend at Midnight

 

Have you ever felt that justice was so long delayed that perhaps God had fallen asleep? This may be the question with which to start reflecting on this week’s gospel reading from Luke 11. 

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3Give us each day our daily bread. 4And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” 5And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 9“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

I will rely heavily upon two phenomenal, and quite different commentaries on this text, Mikeal C. Parsons (Luke: Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament) and David Lyle Jeffrey (Luke: Brazos Theological commentary on the Bible). 

Jesus talks a lot about prayer in Luke, and is also found praying frequently. The disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray, just as John has taught his disciples to pray. A teacher might give his followers a common prayer to pray together, and in their daily prayer as well. Jesus responds with what we call “The Lord’s Prayer,” a prayer that was most likely already a formulaic and liturgical prayer by the time the gospels were written. 

This prayer appears in Matthew 6 and here in Luke 11. There are few differences as the comparison in two columns below shows. This text does not appear in Mark or John, so it is part of what scholars often call Q (from quelle, meaning “source”), a collection of the sayings of Jesus, from which both Matthew and Luke draw, but which has been lost to history. 

What strikes me about Jesus’ prayer is its simplicity and brevity. This is in line with what Jesus teaches in Matthew about not heaping up empty words. 

The version of the prayer in Protestant Churches, includes a doxology from 1 Chronicles 29:11:

Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.

This short prayer of Jesus has had so much impact, it is prayed every day by millions of people, two thousand years later.

 

The bold, red words below are differences in the Matthean and Lukan versions:

 

Matthew 6:7-13 Luke 11:1-4
“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:

 

Father,

hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.

Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

 

Jeffrey helpfully points out that almost all of this prayer is drawn from prayers that would be familiar to the Jewish community of Jesus’ day. Indeed, the Kaddish calls for God’s name to be made holy, and for God’s kingdom to be established. The sixth of the “Eighteen Benedictions,” says:

Forgive us, our Father, for we have sinned; pardon us, our King, for we have transgressed… for You do pardon and forgive. Blessed art thou, O L-rd, who is gracious, and does abundantly forgive.

The only phrase which does not appear in Jewish literature, Jeffrey tells us, is “forgive us our sins, for we also forgive all who sin against us.” Luke uses “sins,” which Matthew uses “debts.” It is fascinating that this prayer is not a request for God to bless us alone, it is a prayer which calls us to bless God, to pray for God’s reign to break into our world, through us, to forgive and love our neighbor, and to stay out of trouble. This is an outwardly-focused prayer. 

God’s name is already holy, by itself. We pray that it might be holy among us. God’s reign will break in whether we pray for it or not. We pray that it will break in through us and among us. These are points that Luther makes poignantly in his short commentary on the Lord’s Prayer in the Small Catechism, which is in many ways just a reflection of St. Augustine’s commentary on the Lord’s Prayer in Sermon IX. 

In Luke’s gospel, the Lord’s prayer is then followed by the story of the friend at midnight. In this story, a man goes to a friend at midnight to plead. He has no bread. He’s in bed. His kids are in bed. The doors are locked up. This ties back to the sacred rules of hospitality. When one has a visitor, one must provide food and shelter. The person in the story has no bread, so there is a big problem. The entire community is at risk of divine retribution if he fails at his duty of hospitality. 

“Go away,” he says. This is horrific behavior by the first century standards of this society, and Luke’s listeners know it. Today, in our society, it is perfectly acceptable to not answer the door. This community would find the “friend’s” behavior reprehensible. Why would Jesus compare God to such a rude friend, unhelpful when there is a pressing need? 

The word “friend” (philos) is used four times in this story (vv. 5, 6, 8). Parsons points out that Luke has, in succession dealt with three Greek virtues: philanthropy, hospitality and friendship. Philanthropy was dealt with in the story of the Good Samaritan. Hospitality was dealt with in the story of Mary and Martha. Now, in the story of the Friend at Midnight, we hear about friendship. 

Friendship, Parsons explains, is a set of unlimited duties to a limited number of people, your friends. Antiquity is filled with stories on good friends, and bad friends. Philanthropy, by contrast, is a limited number of duties to an unlimited number of people, the needy. What duties do you have, to whom?

What does the story mean? Fortunately, Luke explains it to us. 

Imagine you are asleep and a neighbor comes knocking. You may resolve to not answer the door. The neighbor, however, keeps knocking and knocking, persistently. After a while, you realize you aren’t going to be able to go back to sleep until the knocking stops. The only way to get the knocking to stop is to get up, even though you don’t feel like it, and help your neighbor. 

So, is God like this? Is Jesus saying that God is asleep? Is this the reason that injustice seems to keep cropping up? Black men get shot by police much more often than anyone else. A study in New York showed that black men were three times as likely to get stopped as white men. Even black police officers out of uniform report getting harassed by police. Why this injustice? Is God asleep? Are you watching God? 

This cry is nothing new. It is not heretical. In fact, it is the cry of many of the psalms. Psalm 44:23-24 wonders if God is asleep:

Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Wake up! Do not reject us forever! Why do you look the other way, and ignore the oppressed and mistreated?

This is the lament that we hear in Job. Even the cry of Jesus from the cross, taken from Psalm 22 echoes this lament: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

The answer here seems to be that we should demand justice. Demand! We must be persistent, like story of widow that is coming up in Luke 18. She demands justice from a corrupt judge. The judge is not inclined to help her, but she wears him down until finally, with exasperation, he gives her what she wants. Is God like an unrighteous judge?

Then there is the story of the unjust steward in Luke 16. He’s about to be fired, so he cuts his clients debts, so that they will help him when he is jobless. The master praises him for being so shrewd. The gospels are filled with these kinds of stories. 

There may be clue for us at the end of this passage. If your child asks for a fish, would you give a snake? If you who are evil know how to treat your children, then don’t you think God does too? The point is not that God is evil, asleep, or indifferent. The point is, if you can get justice from a lazy neighbor, or a corrupt judge, by persistence, then certainly you can get justice from God, if you are likewise persistent.

So the point is, keep at it until you are blue in the face. Never, never, never give up. Keep shouting from the rooftops, like Isaiah 58. Sound a trumpet. Justice cries aloud in the streets! 

This is what we must do. We must keep shedding light on the darkness. We must keep calling out what we see. We must announce it from the rooftops and call for justice. We must insist. Knock until your knuckles bleed. Seek until you are exhausted. Ask and ask and ask, and keep asking. This will open doors. In fact, be careful what you ask for. You might just get it.

Some will fuss. “You’re too political!” The problem is we have artificially separated morality from politics. It cannot be done. Slavery was legal. You cannot decry an immoral practice without bumping into politics. We must oppose immoral laws, or the church loses its moral authority. It may already have. Should the Lutheran Church in Germany have spoken out more against Jewish concertation camps, or would that have been too political? Should the U.S. church have spoken out more against Japanese internment camps, or would that have been too political? Should we speak out against filthy detainment camps on the border, and children in cages today, or is that getting too political? Statements like, “Just preach the gospel,” are clueless. What gospel are they talking about? I wonder.

To have the faith of a child is to wish upon a star, and even more. It is to repeatedly wish our deepest wishes for the children of the world before God, even the impossible ones. Hopefully, our wishes will mature as we grow.

I leave you with this thought from Frederick Buechner’s “The Magnificent Defeat.”

If that is really the question, if we are really seeking this power, then I have one thing to say–perhaps it is not the only thing, but it is enormously important: ask for it. There is something in me that recoils a little at speaking so directly and childishly, but I speak this way anyway because it is the most important thing I have in me to say. Ask, and you will receive. And there is the other side to it too: if you have never known the power of God’s love, then maybe it is because you have never asked to know it – I mean really asked, expecting an answer.

 

I am saying just this: go to him the way the father of the sick boy did and ask him. Pray to him, is what I am saying. In whatever words you have. And if the little voice that is inside all of us as the inheritance of generations of unfaith, if this little voice inside says, “But I don’t believe. I don’t believe,” don’t worry too much. Just keep on anyway. “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” is the best any of us can do really, but thank God it is enough.

Proper 11, Pentecost 6C – July 21, 2019

Amos 8:1-12 – God’s judgment. Listen, you who trample on the poor and cheat the needy: You will rot like a basket of summer fruit.
OR
Genesis 18:1-10a – The Lord appears to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, in the form of three men.

Psalm 52 – Why do you boast about your evil plans you powerful?
OR
Psalm 15 – Who can live on your holy hill? Those who do not lend money at interest, take bribes, testify against the innocent.

Colossians 1:15-28The Christ Hymn. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.

Luke 10:38-42 – Mary sits. Martha serves.

 

 

Colossians 1: The Christ Hymn

 

Most scholars believe that Paul is quoting a hymn here. If so, it would be one of the earliest hymns about Christ ever written. If, as Bruce Metzger suggests, Paul wrote Colossians in the 50’s from prison, this means that within 20 years of the crucifixion, people are singing songs about Jesus. 

The divinity of Christ emerges early in Christian theology. The creed derives much from this passage. Through him all things were created. Here we have one of the earliest statements of the church: that God was in Christ, who reconciled God to the world, to all things (ta panta).

 

 

Luke 10: Mary and Martha

 

This week’s gospel reading is five short verses: Luke 10, verses 38-42. This story, like The Good Samaritan, earlier in Luke 10, is unique to Luke’s gospel. 

Mikeal Parsons (Luke, Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament) lays the text out as follows:

  1. Martha extends hospitality to Jesus (10:38). 
  2. Mary listens to Jesus’s teachings (10:39). 
  3. Martha attends to the duties of hospitality (10:40a). 
  4. Martha complains that Mary has neglected the duties of hospitality (10:40b). 
  5. Martha asks Jesus to instruct Mary to help her (10:40c).
  6. Jesus responds that Mary has chosen the better activity (10:41–42).

He points out that travel narratives often focus on ancient Mediterranean customs of hospitality. Kindness is to be shown to strangers as a social and religious obligation. 

38 – “Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.”

A certain village: John tells us the village is Bethany (John 11:1), but Luke does not, though he does mention Bethany twice later in his gospel.

In The Jewish Annotated New Testament (JANT), Amy-Jill Levine points out that this is clearly Martha’s home: “Martha welcomed him into her home.” Martha is a householder. Jesus has a running critique of householders. Mary may have lived in the house with Martha or in another house nearby, but in either case, the text makes it clear, we’re now in Martha’s domain.

39 – “She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.”

Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to what he was saying. JANT points out this is much like the synagogue. Keep in mind most synagogues were small – a few families – and they met in homes. Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet and learning. This is remarkable. Jeffrey (Luke: Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) says that women were not permitted to sit at the feet of a rabbi. She is a follower, a female disciple. This would not have been lost on Luke’s hearers. 

40 – “But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’”

Martha is distracted with “pollen diakonian,” literally, “much serving.” Luke’s first listeners would have understood Martha to be doing the right thing. She is tending to the duties of hospitality. Serving is a good thing. Jesus tells us to serve God (4:8). When Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, she immediately begins to serve them (4:39). He reminds us we cannot serve both God and money (16:13). So, some tension is created in the story. 

 

St. Augustine says, in Sermon 103, 

Our Lord’s words teach us that though we labor among the many distractions of this world, we should have but one goal… Martha welcomed [Jesus] as travelers are welcomed… You, Martha, If I may say so, are blessed for your good service, and for your labors you seek the reward of peace. Now you are much occupied in nourishing the body, admittedly a holy one. But when you come to the heavenly homeland will you find a traveler to welcome, someone hungry to feed, or thirsty to whom you may give drink, someone ill whom you could visit, or quarreling whom you could reconcile, or dead whom you could bury? No, there will be none of these tasks there. What you will find there is what Mary chose. There we shall not feed others, we ourselves shall be fed. Thus what Mary chose in this life will be realized there in all its fullness; she was gathering fragments from that rich banquet, the Word of God. 

The anonymous author of the Cloud of Unknowing writes, “And just as Martha complained about her sister Mary, so to this very day all actives criticize contemplatives.” This text has been used to fan the flame between activists and contemplatives for centuries, but is this a false dichotomy? It is unlikely that the very active Jesus is endorsing inactivity or even monasticism. What must be embodied in an interpretation of this text is the fact that Mary and Martha a sisters. Contemplation and activism are sisters. They squabble, but need each other. Jesus may be warning us that the activist Martha’s can swallow up the contemplative Mary’s, and this will not o. 

We all know that serving, like all good works, can become an end into themselves. They can create a sense of moral superiority. They can distract us from loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. We can create a veneer of service without loving God and neighbor a whit. But is this what Martha is doing?

Like Martha, we can become very distracted by our tasks. We can be driven by the tyranny of the urgent. Such business can drive us from love of God and others. I am reminded of a mother I knew once who coached, drove her kids around and volunteered for every school committee. She was a supermom. She loved her kids. Thing is, one of the kids, who was in our church youth group, confided in me that she hardly ever saw her mom. Her mom was so busy coaching, leading, volunteering “for her kids”, she was too busy to spend time with them.

This is a phenomenal lesson for those who are leaders in the church. We can become so obsessed with doing “God’s” work, we lose track of God. If I’m so busy working for God, I may not be able to find time to spend with God. We all too easily neglect prayer, listening, and centering. As a chronic workaholic, this passage is like a punch in the gut. You know there’s a problem when doing the work of God is destroying God’s work in you.

This is in no way to dissuade people from serving or practicing hospitality. People experience faith in different ways. There are those whose faith finds its deepest expression in serving. There are those whose faith finds its greatest expression in prayer and worship. The apostle Paul says that we should offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, for this is our spiritual worship. Those who are wired this way find sitting in a room quietly hypocritical. One can sit in a room singing Jesus songs and never be about the world-transforming ministry to which God calls us, and which Jesus modeled. Jesus didn’t sit around navel-gazing. He had a vigorous itinerary of preaching, teaching and healing. There is, however, an extreme on the other side. We can work like crazy, serving the wrong people, in the wrong way, for the wrong reasons, because we weren’t listening. But is this what Martha was doing?

What we have here, from a family systems standpoing, is a classic triangle. “Jesus! Do you not see what is happening? Isn’t it awful? Isn’t it terrible what she is doing to me? Tell my sister to help me! Send her back to the kitchen.”

No one can be in ministry long without experiencing this. “Pastor! Open your eyes! Can’t you see what’s happening? Isn’t it terrible what they are doing to me? What are you going to do about it? What kind of pastor are you? What kind of church is this that lets such things happen?” How easily we get manipulated into others’ dramas. 

John Jewell, in Lectionary Tales, has a piece on telling other people what to do:

Judith Orloff M.D. in her book, “Emotional Freedom,” writes, “People who feel out of control tend to become controllers. Deep down, they’re afraid of falling apart, so they micromanage to bind anxiety.”

Of course, some responses may be, “Have you spoken to her about this?” “What would you like me to do with this information?” “This must be difficult for you…”

41 – “But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things”

Jesus doesn’t take the bait. He responds directly to Martha, without getting pulled into the triangle. 

Repeating her name twice might be an attempt to comfort her. There, there, Martha. This sounds to me like the way one might comfort a child, though this is conjecture on my part. Parsons confirms that in this time and culture, repeating the name (conduplicatio) is a rhetorical device to convey compassion or pity. 

Distracted (thorubazay) again and this time worried (merimnas) too. Μaρθα Μaρθα, μεριμνaς καὶ θορυβάζn περὶ πολλά.

The preacher needs to turn this back on his or her listeners: What has you worried and distracted today? What has you so worried and distracted that you don’t have time to listen for God? Sit at Jesus’ feet? Perhaps listening to Jesus is a way to cope with our worries and distractions.

Paul uses the same word for “worry” in Philippians 4:6.

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Paul sees prayer as an alternative to worry, fear, and anxiety.

42 – “there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

In Luke 12, someone will attempt to triangle Jesus again. “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me!” It seems people are always tying to manipulate Jesus. He didn’t take the bait then either. “Who made me the boss of you?” (12:14)

He’s nicer to Martha. “Martha, Martha…” Don’t worry. She has made the right choice. Don’t take that away from her…

Listening to Jesus precedes serving. If we jump into action, we take on a “Ready. Fire. Aim!” approach, like Peter. Our activity can be frenetic and unfocused. Ineffective, or at the worst, counterproductive. 

It’s interesting that this story falls right on the heels of the story of the Good Samaritan, a story whose point is that the hated enemy, the Samaritan, is my neighbor whom I am called to love. This is made clear through the Samaritan’s serving the injured man. First a story of serving, and then a quick reminder about listening. Perhaps these two stories need to heard together. 

Luke recounts this story to send a message to his church, the church to which he is writing: Serve, but don’t get so caught up in your serving that you lose sight of the One whom you serve. When we don’t listen to Jesus, we just might find ourselves feeding the naked and clothing the sick.

One thing matters. And that one thing is paying attention to Jesus’ teaching.  

One last analogy. On the high seas, one could get so busy swabbing the deck, washing the nets, and trimming the sails that one might forget to check one’s bearings. Before long, the ship inches off course. The reefs approaches. The crew might get lost. The ship could wreck. They will say, “We don’t understand. We were working so hard!” We must always be keeping an eye on the horizon.

 

Proper 10, Pentecost 5C – July 14, 2019

Amos 7:7-17Amos’ call to prophesy. He prophesies against Israel and Jereboam.

OR

Deuteronomy 30:9-14 – God will make you prosper if you obey. The word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

Psalm 82Defend the poor and the orphan. Vindicate the oppressed and suffering!

OR

Psalm 25:1-10Teach me your paths O Lord. Remember not the sins of my youth!

Colossians 1:1-14 – Paul and Timothy write to the church at Colossae, commending them for their faith, and their love, made known to them by Epaphras. They pray that the church there may bear fruit in every good work and be prepared to endure what may come with patience.

Luke 10:25-37 – The parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus: “Go and do likewise.”

 

 

The Good Samaritan

Bishop Mike and Dr. Mikeal Parsons

Check put my Connections article on a conversation with Luke scholar Mikeal Parsons at Baylor. This conversation left me intrigued with the story of the Good Samaritan, and other stories unique to Luke’s gospel. 

Wherever people are divided by race, ethnicity and religion, this story is incredibly applicable. So, basically everywhere, but especially here, and now. 

Samaria was located between Galilee, the home of Jesus, to the north, and Judea, the home of the Jerusalem Temple, to the south. Samaritan society was a racially and religiously intermixed DMZ between the two.  Jews had intermarried with indigenous folks and with those who had immigrated from surrounding nations. They were a more racially diverse society. 

Along with these other cultures came their religions. Although the Samaritans were monotheistic adherents to the law, pagan idols and temples existed alongside traditional Jewish monotheistic religion. Samaritans allowed the name of Yahweh to be pronounced, and differed in other ways from the Jews. Their religious observance was considered contaminated. They were to be avoided at all costs. They were shunned and looked down upon, which is what gives the story of the Good Samaritan its edge. Without some understanding of the Jewish relationship to Samaritans, it will be hard for our congregants to hear this as more than an injunction to help people on the road (which it is, but so much more).

Later, in Acts 8:14-17, Luke recounts the ministry to the Samaritans. This happens between the ministry to the Jews in Acts 1-7 and the ministry to the Gentiles that follows. 

Last week we heard the sending of the seventy (or seventy-two). After a short soliloquy in which Jesus give thanks that God has hidden “these things” from the wise, and revealed them to little children (shades of the Magnificat), Jesus is approached by a lawyer asking about eternal life. 

Spoiler alert: Luke 10 and 11 from this point are about love of God and neighbor. This is not just in the points made, but also built into the structure of the text. Parsons (Luke, Paideia series) points out the chiastic (A-B-B-A) structure:

A – On loving neighbors (parable of the good Samaritan, Luke 10:29–37)—example, Samaritan as Christ figure 

B – On loving the Lord (Mary and Martha, Luke 10:38–42); example, Mary 

B′ – On loving the Lord (the Lord’s Prayer, Luke 11:1–4); example, Jesus 

A′ – On loving neighbors/friends (the parable of the friend at midnight, Luke 11:5–13); example, friend seeking bread

Fortunately, we read all of these in the RCL:

July 14: Luke 10:25-37 (The Good Samaritan)
July 21: Luke 10:38-42 (Mary and Martha)
July 28: Luke 11:1-13 (Lord’s Prayer and Friend at Midnight)

A “lawyer” (νομικός) stood up to test Jesus. This kind of debate, which I will discuss in a minute, is perfectly normal. “Lawyer” refers to one who is learned in the Mosaic law, not an attorney in the modern sense. It would not be uncommon for two observant Jews to debate the application of some matter of the law.

The lawyer asks: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The lawyer doesn’t ask, “What must I do to get into heaven when I die?” though this is what most of our folks will hear. Obviously, there is an afterlife component to eternal life, but eternal life begins now. It breaks into this world as well, like the reign of God. 

In typical rabbinical fashion, Jesus answers the question with a question. He will do the same after the parable: “Which of these was a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?” Jesus invites the lawyer answer his own question. Not only is this a rabbinic way of teaching, it is also Socratic, something Luke would likely have known about. The Socratic method used friendly debate, asking and answering questions, to stimulate critical thinking. When someone thinks through a matter, and arrives at a conclusion, they are more likely to remember it. In our society we often see debate as hostile, rather than as a dialectical way to ferret out truth. We want everyone to agree, or at least pretend to agree. This puts us in danger of engaging in superficial community. We also feel uncomfortable leaving the questions open, and feel there must be a right and wrong, orthodox and heretical answer to everything, rather than a recognition of mystery, and the humility of a knowledge that is incomplete, only made perfect in love.

Parsons names this a rhetorical device. The lawyer takes the bait and quotes the Shemah, Deuteronomy 6:5, and then Leviticus 19:18. Matthew 22 is the parallel here, however Matthew has Jesus answering the question himself. The Good Samaritan story is unique to Luke. I often marvel at what we would miss without Luke’s gospel: Zaccheus, The Prodigal Son, The Good Samaritan, the Nunc Dimittis, the Magnificat

Jesus acknowledges that this is a good answer. Love God. Love neighbor. That’s it. Go do it.

“But wanting to justify himself…” Dr. Parsons suggested to me that of the canonical evangelists, Luke has the best handle on Paul’s theology. He was referencing Luke’s stuff about Paul in Acts, but we see bits of it here. 

 

For those familiar with it, here is the Greek:

ὁ δὲ θέλων δικαιῶσαι ἑαυτὸν εἶπεν πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, kαὶ τίς ἐστίν μου πλησίον; 

 

 

δικαιόω means “to render righteous.” This reflects back to Abraham “being reckoned righteous” in Genesis, for believing God’s promise. There is a clear theology of justification by grace through faith here. The lawyer isn’t thinking about being reckoned righteous by trusting God. He is thinking about justifying himself, by his good work, and justifying his current bias. 

The word ἑαυτὸν means “self.” The lawyer wants to make himself righteous, or more colloquially, “justify himself.” In what way? The answer is in his question. “But who is my neighbor?” 

 

In the Greek:

Καὶ τίς ἐστίν μου πλησίον; 

 

Καὶ can mean “and,” “but” and other things. It’s fun to play with the tone of the question:

And who is my neighbor?
But who is my neighbor?
So who is my neighbor?
Then who is my neighbor?

 

I like “but.” Who do I have to love? Who do I not have to love? Perhaps the lawyer is trying to draw a circle encompassing those neighbors whom he must love, with those he need not love – those outside the circle. Remember, this is the Jesus who has called his followers to love even their enemies, just four chapters ago (Luke 6:27, 35). 

Today’s listeners may ask the same questions. If a family member is hungry or thirsty, playing poverty or violence, I know I have to help. But what about a stranger? Or someone from another country? Another religion? Who am I called to love? Am I called to love immigrants? Am I called to love those with whom I disagree? Must I worship with them? Am I called to love ISIS? What does that mean? How do we pray for our enemies? For their conversion from hatred and hostility? For their well-being?

Who is my neighbor? Is my neighbor  the person who lives in the house on my right or left, or the whole neighborhood? Or those in my neighborhood who share my faith, or ethnicity? Does Leviticus mean I must love my fellow Jew, or does it go beyond that? 

Jesus could give a pat answer if he wanted to, but then it would devolve to a matter of opinion. Jesus does not just want to lecture the lawyer. He wants to convert, convince, inspire, transform. 

A tangent about preaching: Do we preach for information? Inspiration? Transformation? Do we believe that if people have the right information everything will work out? Do we assume with the right information they will do the right thing? Do we assume that we as preachers have all the right information and they don’t? What information do we have? What information do they have that we need? How do we move beyond information to inspiration? How do we move beyond inspiration to transformational preaching? How are we inviting people to respond to the message? As my seminary preaching professor Paul Harms used to write at the bottom of our embryonic sermons: “So what?”

Back to the text. Jesus could answer the question. He could respond with another question. He will, eventually. But first he employs another rabbinic technique: He tells a story. 

“Once upon a time…” Our minds are wired for stories. Stories convey multiple layers of truth that cannot be conveyed through didactic statements, laws, rules, doctrines. The brain craves stories. Stories are sticky. 

“Every culture bathes their children in stories to explain how the world works and to engage and educate their emotions. Perhaps story patterns could be considered another higher layer of language. A sort of meta-grammar shaped by and shaping conventions of character types, plots, and social-rule dilemmas prevalent in our culture.” http://bigthink.com/ideafeed/how-the-human-brain-became-hardwired-to-tell-stories 

 

See also: 

https://blog.bufferapp.com/science-of-storytelling-why-telling-a-story-is-the-most-powerful-way-to-activate-our-brains 

http://lifehacker.com/5965703/the-science-of-storytelling-why-telling-a-story-is-the-most-powerful-way-to-activate-our-brains 

 

I think I would be a better preacher if I used more stories and questions. Lead people to discover the obvious conclusion for themselves. Recognize that platitudes don’t stick, but stories do. The Good Samaritan is a great example. What good stories with surprise endings can you tell that invite us to see the stranger as our neighbor?

You know the story. I won’t belabor it. Should the priest obey the law against corpse defilement, or help the neighbor? Which law should prevail? Jesus seems to think everyone knows the answer. If your donkey falls in a ditch on the Sabbath, you know what to do. The answer is obvious. Compassion is at the heart of the law. 

The one who renders aid is the Samaritan, who is despised by the lawyer. Jesus’ question is the ultimate in inductive teaching. “You tell me: Who is the neighbor in this story?” The lawyer is forced to admit the Samaritan is his neighbor. I like to imagine he had trouble even responding. Whispering at first. “Um, the, uh, Sam…” Jesus, “Sorry. Didn’t get that. What did you say? A little louder. Who is your neighbor?”

Parsons points out that many scholars dismiss a christological reading of this story: C. A. Evans 1990, 178, states flatly: “The Samaritan is not Jesus.” But Lutherans know Luther interpreted everything christologically, sometimes to a fault, bending some Old Testament texts away from their original meaning. Of course Paul did this too, with his allegorical interpretations (e.g. Sarah and Hagar). Parsons points out that Luke uses “he felt compassion” only three times, and the other two are for God-figures (like the father in the Prodigal Son). Parsons is not so quick to dismiss a christological interpretation. But the beauty of it, is the text may be understood on many different levels. The story can have meaning when you are 12 and when you are 80. 

Augustine didn’t shy from allegorical interpretation of the Good Samaritan either. In Quaestiones Evangeliorum II:19, he said “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho,” is the loss of innocence in the Garden of Eden. The man is Adam, according to Augustine. Jericho signifies our mortality. The thieves are the devil and his angels. They stripped and beat him, meaning, they enticed him to fall into sin. The priest and Levite could not produce salvation by the law. The Samaritan is Christ. The oil is hope. The wine is the Spirit. The beast is Christ’s incarnate flesh. The inn is the church. The next day is the resurrection. The two coins are the commands to love God and neighbor. The innkeeper is Paul. And so on. You’ve got to love Augustine.

At the end of the story, after the lawyer admits the Samaritan is the neighbor of the story, Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.” This makes it seem like a morality play. At one level it is, but we know there are always many levels to a story. What does “do likewise” mean? Help the stranded? Yes. Love across ethnic and religious boundaries? Yes. Recognize the neighbor in the other? Yes. Jesus answers the “so what?” Now, go and live it. 

Here’s a furtive question to leave everyone squirming a little bit: First century Palestinian Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. With whom do you have no dealings? [The Word in Life Study Bible, New Testament Edition, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville; 1993), pp. 340-341]

Oh, and keep in mind, Jesus was rejected by a Samaritan village in the previous chapter, which we read two weeks ago. Could you make a hero out of those who rejected you?

Questions: Another Way to Approach the Text

I love the wonderful Godly Play question: “What do you wonder about in this story?“ It invites questions, imagination, discovery.

Try this: I have preached a couple sermons where the entire sermon consisted of questions. They were questions I had about the text, but also leading questions, that pointed people to curiosities in the text and made them think for themselves. This summer, try constructing a sermon like that and see what happens. Not answers. Questions. It is a Aristotelian, inductive way of teaching. It is the way Jesus uses in this story, by telling a story and asking questions. He allows his listeners to draw their own conclusions.

Read this coming Sunday’s gospel text, Luke 10:25-37. Off the top of my head, some of my questions might be:

• What do you wonder about this story?

• I wonder: What does lawyer mean in this context? Is this an attorney? What law are we talking about?

• What does the lawyer mean by “eternal life?“ Does he just mean unending? Or is there more to the question?

• Why does he use the word inherit? Like inheriting something from a relative who died?

• What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?

• Why does Jesus always answer a question with a question?

• Does Jesus want the lawyer to answer his own question?

• Does the lawyer’s answer to Jesus, answer my previous question about what law we are talking about, and what kind of lawyer this is?

• Why does the lawyer pick these two things as the most important: love God and love neighbor?

• Is the passage about loving the Lord your God with all your heart soul mind and strength the most important passage in the Jewish tradition? Is it true that observant Jews recited this passage daily?

• How does Jesus feel about this answer? Why is Jesus’ response so positive?

• What does Jesus tell the lawyer to do with his own answer to the question?

• When Jesus says “Do this and you will live,“ doesn’t mean after you die, or right now, or both?

• If it also includes life now, what is it mean to truly live now? What does it mean to not truly be fully alive in this life? Am I fully alive? Am I fully awake?

• Why does the lawyer need to then justify himself? What does that mean exactly? Is Luke using the word the same way Paul uses the words justify and justification?

• Why does the lawyer ask the question, “Who is my neighbor?”Why does he need to ask this particular question? He’s already said loving your neighbor is the most important thing, so is he trying to identify who is not his neighbor, and therefore who he need not love?

• Why does Jesus always respond by telling stories? Why doesn’t he just answer the question plainly?

• Why does Jesus immediately go to a story about someone who has fallen into misfortune through the fault of his own? Why does Jesus begin with a story about someone who is “half dead?” Hmm.

• Robbed, stripped and beaten nearly to death: What emotion might this kind of story immediately evoke in the lawyer, and the other people standing around? What feelings does it invoke in you?

• Why does Jesus mention specifically the road from Jerusalem to Jericho? Is this a road with which the lawyer and those listening are familiar? Might some of them have actually come upon this very experience, much like people in urban centers come across the homeless sleeping under bridges and on park benches?

• What is a Levite?

• Why might the priest in the Levite have passed by? Was there danger? Inconvenience? Apathy? Religious scruples?

• Why does Jesus use a Samaritan, a person he knows his listeners despise, as the protagonist in the story? What feelings and conflicts make this surface in those listening?

• What current events in our world does this story bring to mind? What feelings do those events evoke in you? Can you write them down? How might Jesus be suggesting we respond to those events?

• What feelings does the sight of the half dead man evoke in the Samaritan? What word does Luke use? What does it mean?

• Why does Luke describe the Samaritans feelings?

• What actions are prompted by those feelings?

• Why does the Samaritan pour oil and wine on the wounds?

• How are oil and wine used in worship today? Could there be any connection?

• When the Samaritan put the man on his animal, does that mean that the Samaritan has to walk the rest of the way?

• Why does the Samaritan take the man to an inn? What kind of inn? Are there no hospitals?

• Why does the Samaritan give the innkeeper two coins, two denarii, two days’ wages?

• What would two days’ wages be worth today? Given the average income? Given my income? Have I ever done something like this? Have I ever been this generous to an individual who had fallen into a hard place? Could I, going forward? What would this look like? Would I respond to a sudden, urgent situation like this?

• Why did the Samaritan say, to the innkeeper, “When I come back, I will repay you whatever you spend?“ Is this not a blank check? Could this not turn out to be an enormous sum? Might it have been wiser for him to set a limit on this generosity?

• “When I return… send “Where have I heard that before in the gospels?

• Why is Jesus telling this story? What was the question he was originally asked?

• How does Jesus answer the question?

• Why does Jesus ask yet another question, “Which of the three was the neighbor?“

• Which of the three was ,in fact, a neighbor? How do you answer the question?

• How did the lawyer answer the question? What do you read?

• How are we showing mercy today in our current circumstances?

• How do you understand the story? Do you read it literally or allegorically?

• Would you tend toward Saint Augustine‘s christological interpretation, in which we are the ones in the ditch, Christ is the good Samaritan who saves, the priest and Levite are the law and the prophets who do not save, the inn is the church, the innkeeper is the apostle Paul, the wine and oil, and the two coins are the sacraments, and the Samaritan/Christ says I will come again and re-pay all that is owed? Would you agree with this interpretation?

• Or is this a story about Samaritans, and who is your neighbor? Would that also not be an allegorical understanding?

• Could the story possibly have multiple leanings on multiple levels, for multiple audiences?

• What is the last thing Jesus says in this text?

• If the story is understood allegorically, Why does Jesus say “Go and do likewise?”

• What is Jesus saying to you right now?

 

 

Proper 9, Pentecost 4C – July 7, 2019

2 Kings 5:1-14 – Syrian Namaan healed by Elisha.
OR
Isaiah 66:10-14 – As a mother nurses a child, so I will console you O Jerusalem.

Psalm 30 – God’s anger lasts a moment, God’s favor for a lifetime.
OR
Psalm 66:1-9 – Praise the Lord, all you nations!

Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16 – (Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.) You reap what you sow.  Do not become weary in doing good. I don’t boast in circumcision, but in the cross of Christ alone.

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 – The sending of the 70: See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near…

 

 

Luke 10: The Sending of the 70


Three years ago I drove over to Tuett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas, and had the privilege  of sitting down with Mikeal C. Parsons, a tireless scholar of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles. This Baptist professor has taught religion at Baylor, in Waco, Texas since 1986. His wife is a professor of Italian Renaissance Art History. 

A list of his books is dizzying. Here are some:

  • Rethinking the Unity of Luke and Acts. Co-authored with Richard I. Pervo. Philadelphia: Fortress/Augsburg Press, 1993.
  • “Acts.” Pp. 1-64 in Acts and Pauline Writings. Mercer Commentary on the Bible, Volume 7. Watson E. Mills, Richard F. Wilson, et al., editors. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1997.
  • With Heidi J. Hornik. Illuminating Luke: The Infancy Narrative in Italian Renaissance Painting. Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 2003.
  • With Martin Culy. Acts: A Handbook on the Greek Text of Acts. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2003.
  • With Dennis Smith et al. Synoptic Stories About Jesus. Storyteller’s Companion to the Bible. Vol. 9. General Eds. Dennis Smith and Michael Williams. Abingdon Press, 2005.
  • With Heidi J. Hornik. Illuminating Luke: The Public Ministry of Christ in Italian Renaissance and Baroque Painting. Valley Forge, PA: T & T Clark International, 2005.
  • Body and Character in Luke and Acts: The Subversion of Physiognomy in Early Christianity. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006.
  • Luke: Storyteller, Evangelist, Interpreter. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Press, 2007.
  • With Heidi J. Hornik. Illuminating Luke: The Passion and Resurrection Narratives in Italian Renaissance and Baroque Painting. Valley Forge, PA: T & T Clark International. November 2007.
  • The Acts of the Apostles. Paideia Commentary Series. Eds. Mikeal C. Parsons and Charles H. Talbert. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008.
  • With Martin Culy and Josh Stigall. A Handbook on the Greek Text of Luke. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2010.
  • Body and Character in Luke and Acts: The Subversion of Physiognomy in Early Christianity. Reprint. Baylor University Press, 2011.
  • Luke:  Storyteller, Evangelist, Interpreter. Reprint. Baylor University Press, 2014. 
  • Gospel of Luke. Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament. Baker Academic. 2015.
  • With Heidi J. Hornik. The Acts of the Apostles Across the Centuries. Oxford: Blackwell’s. forthcoming 2016. 
  • The Triune God and the Church’s Mission in Acts. Manuscript submitted for publication.

 

And this doesn’t even include his articles. The book I’ve used is his Paideia Commentary on Luke. I have relied heavily on Parsons, and also Jeffrey’s Brazos Theological Commentary on Luke for today’s post. 

Here is the text for this Sunday, from Luke:

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’

 

 12 I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town. 13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades.

 

 16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

 

17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

The portion above in grayscale is not part of the lectionary selection. These woes are frankly a bit of a tangent, but since Luke includes them in the text, I will too. This is a literary technique called an inclusio, where the author begins a story, moves to a different, but related story, and then returns to the original story to give us the conclusion. We see this same technique used in television dramas.

 

 

Context

 

In my brief Introduction to the Gospel of Luke, I suggest an outline for Luke’s gospel. After the birth narratives, John the Baptist and Jesus’ wilderness experience, there are three bodies of material in Luke: Jesus in Galilee, Jesus Journeying to Jerusalem, and Jesus in Jerusalem. Our text is toward the very beginning of the Journey, what Parsons calls the “Travel Narrative.” 

Those of us using the Revised Common Lectionary were in Luke 8 June 23 and Luke 9 June 30, 2019. We will be in Luke 10-11 in July 2019 and Luke 12-14 in August. In other words, we have just completed Jesus’ time in Galilee and are now together on the road with Jesus. (this is the literal meaning of the word synod: “together on the way/road/journey.”) Last week was the first text in the Journey/Travel Narrative, Luke 9:51-62, Jesus’ rejection by a Samaritan village, something that will be of importance as we look at this text. 

 

 

Seventy Are Commissioned


David Lyle Jeffrey points out that a few texts, followed by the Vulgate, say 72 were sent. The difference between 70 and 72 is not critical, but Parsons points out 70 is an important symbolic number. The Septuagint (a word which means 70) is the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Luke’s gospel utilizes the Septuagint a lot. It may be that this number is symbolic of the mission to the Gentiles. 

The seventy are to go ahead of him, to towns he will visit. The word used is apestelen/ ἀπέστειλεν. This word means to send or commission. You can see the word “post” in there. It is the root from which comes the word “apostle,” those sent. Jesus commissioned 12, then 70. The mission is ramping up. There is a strategy and training to go with it.

 

Instructions

Jesus sends the seventy out in twos. “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Jeffrey points out this commissioning is close to the October time of the Festival of Booths/Tabernacles, so the harvest references make sense. Parsons points out the eschatological judgment overtones (Joel 3, Micah 4). “I send you out like lambs in the midst of wolves.” They are not to expect a warm reception, a lesson they learned in Samaria (Luke 9). What do we expect? Accolades? Are we hoping to win a popularity contest? Perhaps it depends upon what our mission is.

The instructions for the seventy echo Jesus’ instructions to the 12 in the previous chapter, Luke 9. The instructions in Luke 10 are longer, but notice the overlap.

Luke 9: Take no staff, bag, money, tunic.
Luke 10: Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals. 

Luke 9: Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there.
Luke 10: Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide. 

Luke 9: If they do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.
Luke 10: If they do not welcome you, say, “Even the dust of our feet we wipe off in protest.” 

 

Travel lightly.

This will preach. It is best to travel lightly in life as well. Jesus warns of the lure of materialism. What does it profit you to gain the world, but lose your soul? Parables like the man who built barns warn us that life is more than the accumulation of things. 

I keep thinking about my growing library of books which I had to pack up in boxes and move from call to call. In time, they became a burden. I began to thin out my collection, realizing many of the books were never used once read, and some were out of date.

We who have invested our lives in ministry have to remember, there’s no “stuff” that will make this work. It is the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in us that accomplishes the ministry. “Let the Spirit do the heavy lifting,” one professor said to me.

How my congregations travel more lately? If seems to me the congregations pick up programs over the years. We’re not so good at putting tired programs to bed when it’s time. We can bury our people in busy work, propping up old programs whose time has passed. What might it mean for a mission-driven congregation to travel lightly?

Luke 10 adds the comment about not talking to people along the way. Parsons sees this as a time saving measure. Oriental greetings could be quite long. The seventy were to have a clear focus and mission. Don’t lollygag. Get to work. This brings to mind the saying about not looking back once you’ve set your hand to the plow, and also the angel’s comment after the Ascension: “Why do you just stand there staring up into heaven?” Get to work.

 

Peace

When the seventy enter a house they are to offer peace. Parsons points out this is a common practice (Judges 6:23; 19:20). If Jesus is the Prince of Peace, his followers should embody that. Parsons also calls to mind the resurrected Jesus’ word of peace to the disciples in Luke 24.

Visitation is an important part of any ministry. We aren’t digging deep in community if we aren’t in each other’s houses. This is hard these days, because people guard their homes more than ever. Small groups meeting in homes are a sign of deeper community. When you enter someone’s home, be sure to offer a word of peace to that home, and embody that peace. Your presence will be a blessing.

 

Stay In One House

The seventy are to stay in the same house while they are there, rather than moving from house to house. We did this when I was on a Lutheran Youth Encounter Team in the Midwest. For a year we travelled from town to town, singing and leading youth events. It was a great year. We traveled in a van and stayed in host homes. These homes provided us with generous hospitality. This created a bond between us. 

Eat what is set before you. There are hints of Peter’s sheet of unclean foods here. Eat what is set before you, even if it violates your dietary restrictions. The mission to the Gentiles will require a different relationship to food – a new freedom based on gospel, not law. 

We followed the instructions to “eat what is set before you” when we visit the Lutheran Churches of Ethiopia, Peru and the Central African Republic. In the CAR we ate a lot of goat. Sometimes we weren’t sure what we were eating. This was a sign of respect to them. It was an acknowledgement of their great hospitality. In a society that struggles to get enough calories, they killed a goat for us.

 

Cure the Sick and Tell Them the Reign of God has Come Near

If you don’t have healing gifts, then it is enough to pay attention to the sick and to tend to them. The gifts of presence, smiles, and prayer, do more than we can imagine. Sickness can be isolating. Jesus’ followers are to visit the sick and those in prison, and then remind them that this new community is a sign of the reign of God breaking into our world. 

 

Rejection

Earlier, in Luke 9, Jesus was rejected by a Samaritan village. We read this gospel text last Sunday. James and John ask if Jesus wants them to call down fire from heaven on this inhospitable village (Luke 9:54). Jesus rebukes them. How do we respond to those who do not receive the gospel? Jesus rejects a violent reaction, and instead suggests they shake the dust off their feet and move on. Parsons points out, if the hosts had been hospitable, the guests would not have dust on their feet anyway. Jesus says it will be worse for them on judgment day than for Sodom (confirming, by the way, that the Sodom and Gomorrah text is about hospitality). 

Over the years, I have encountered many who were wounded by the church, and could not return. To respond to them with anger would accomplish nothing. In fact, it might just confirm their impressions. Our response must always be one of welcome. The atheist spouse of a church member is always welcome. The Buddhist spouse of one church member came frequently and meditated during worship. He often had comments about the sermon. Whether or not they believe, the reign of God has a way of breaking in. All are welcome. 

We often feel we have done something wrong if people do not believe the gospel we preach. If the parable of the sower and the seed has anything to say, we should only expect about 25% of the seed we scatter to fall on good soil. Scatter away. Expect rejection. 

This rejection strategy causes Jesus to go into a bit of fit. He hurls woes at Chorzin and Bethsaida. Miracles were performed there, but they did not receive him apparently. Bethsaida is near the feeding of the five thousand, on the north side of the Sea of Galilee, though efforts to locate it definitively have fallen short of the mark. Chorazin (or Chorazim) is also in northern Galilee. Clearly, Jesus himself was not accepted everywhere. We should not expect we will be either. 

 

 

The Seventy Return

 

The seventy returned with joy. Mission trips often yield amazing results. “Even the demons submitted to us.” Jesus’ response is likely a well-preserved, if not enigmatic saying of Jesus. “I saw Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.” He goes on to say he has given them power to tread on serpents and scorpions without harm. Taking this passage literally has led some Christian sects to practice snake-handling.

Satan falling from heaven is likely an apocalyptic image. This sounds like much of Revelation. It also reflects the future as many of the Old Testament prophets did. We may be seeing a glimpse of the mysterious way that Jesus spoke, like many seers. In my view, it has to be a reference to the “spirits submitting to the seventy.” Satan is bound. This is how a first century preacher/healer would speak. 

The good news is that the reign of God, more traditionally “the kingdom of God” is not pie in the sky when you die. It is right here. It is breaking into our world.

Nevertheless, the seventy are not to rejoice in the reaction they got in healing and performing exorcisms. They are to rejoice that their names are written in heaven. We should not rejoice in the various victories of ministry, no matter how life-changing. We are only instruments of the divine, on the world stage for only the blink of an eye. 

 

 

Preaching Luke 10

 

This is a phenomenal text for Lectio Divina. Read the text three times, with silence afterwards, and then an opportunity for people to reflect on what they are hearing each time, the final time reflecting on how God is calling us to follow Jesus and be sent into the world today. In a small congregation this could be the sermon. 

In a traditional sermon, it would be a shame to miss this opportunity to preach the mission of the gospel. The harvest today is plentiful. The laborers today are few. Are we not also sent into the world to bring hope and healing? Reflecting on this text would provide an excellent opportunity to train people to bring hope and healing into the world, and also to invite them into deeper training, to be hospital visitors, homebound lay Eucharistic ministers, evangelists. How are you equipping the saints for ministry? How are you inviting them to hone their skills for this work? How are you preparing them, as Jesus did? 

In what ways has the reign of God come near you? In what ways has the reign of God broken into your congregation’s ministry? In what ways has it broken into your community? Tell stories. Point to the God who shows up in the everyday stuff of everyday life. 

In loving memory of Pastor Ken Ribe

(July 24, 1928-June 8, 2019)

Obituary

Reverend Kenneth Harris Ribe

1928-2019

Reverend Kenneth Harris Ribe, age 90, went to be with his Heavenly Father on Saturday, June 8, 2019

surrounded by his family. He was born July 24, 1928 in San Antonio, Texas to Otto E. and Viola (Crowell) Ribe.

Ken received his Bachelor of Science in Physics May 1948. He also earned a Master’s Degree in Physics January

1952, both from The University of Texas. He was a member by invitation only of Sigma Pi Sigma Honorary

Society for Physics majors.

Ken married his high school sweetheart, Bernice E. Smith, on September 1, 1949. They would have been

married 70 years this September. They raised two children, Rick and Bonnie.

After college he was employed by Humble Oil and Refining Company as a Research Engineer in Houston, Texas

for eight years. He had a calling to leave this career to become a Lutheran minister. He received his Bachelor

of Divinity Cum Laude May 1963 from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina.

Ken and his family moved to Fort Worth, Texas where he was pastor at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church for five

years. In 1968 the family moved to Lake Jackson, Texas where he served at Christ Lutheran Church for eight

years. In 1976 Ken and Bernice moved to Katy, Texas where he was the Mission Developer of Living Word

Lutheran Church which has become the largest Lutheran church in the Texas Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod,

ELCA.

Ken was asked to assist the Dallas/Ft.Worth Head of the Ministerial Alliance at the funeral of Lee Harvey

Oswald. He served many years on the Staff at Lutherhill Youth Camp. He was very active with the Seafarer’s

Center at the Port of Houston and served on the board for a number of years.

Ken was an avid Texas Longhorn sports fan. He and Bernice were football season ticket holders with their son

for many years. They had the privilege to attend the 1963 and 2005 National Championship games. He

enjoyed vacations with his family every summer, particularly to Creede, Colorado where he loved to fish for

Rainbow Trout. Ken and Bernice have been in every state in the USA. They also enjoyed international travel

especially to the Holy Land and to Martin Luther Country.

After retirement Ken served as interim pastor of eight churches and also did various preaching appointments.

He and Bernice always looked forward to their monthly Retired Lutheran Pastors Lunch Bunch gatherings. As a

member of Christthe Servant he has sung in the choir and assisted Pastor Jim Giannantonio as needed.

Family time was very important to Ken. He especially loved all the many times he got to spend with his

Grandkids and later his first Great-grandchild.

Preceded in death by his parents, Otto and Viola Ribe and one brother Marshall Ribe. Survived by his beloved

wife, Bernice, son Richard Ribe (Gwen), daughter Bonnie Novosad (David) and brother Fred Ribe. Six

Grandchildren; Kate Ribe Clements (Ross), Paul Ribe (Kaitlyn), Blake Novosad, Keith Ribe (Carlisle), Brooke

Novosad Sterzinger (Matthew), Benjamin Kenneth Ribe and Great-grandson Cole Sterzinger.

Memorial service with Bishop Rev. Mike Rinehart Presiding Minister, and Pastor Jim Giannantonio as Liturgist

will be held Sunday, June 23, 2019 at 3:00 PM at Christ the Servant Lutheran Church, 2400 Wilcrest, Houston,

Texas 77042. A reception to follow to meet with the family. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in

Pastor Ken’s name to Christ the Servant Lutheran Church.

Pastor Ribe’s memorial service was held on July 23, 2019 at Christ the servant Lutheran Church. This was one day before 10 would be 91 years old. Pastor Jim Giannantonio and I presided.

Pastoral intern Jason Thomas and a battery of volunteers helped out.

John Krueger and Pam Tamburello provided musical leadership.

I am grateful for the ministry of Pastor Ken Ribe, and all

who dedicate their lives to the proclamation of the love of God as seen in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

Bachelors of Science in Physics, Masters in Physics he worked for Humble Oil Company, before deciding to go to Southern Seminary.

He served

  • St. Matthews in Fort Worth 1963-1968.
  • Christ Lake Jackson 1968-1976.
  • 1976 Mission Developer for Living Word, Katy for a decade
  • and a half before retirement.

He did many interims in retirement, and was an active

member of the retired pastors, deacons and spouses group.

Pastor Jim Giannantonio says Ken and Bernice joined Christ the Servant in August 1992. He preached at Christ the Servant once in a while. Sang in choir. Was one of the cantors.

Pastor George Brookover says Ken was a senior when George was a junior, but 10 years older than George. George says he was so loyal to UT he bled orange.

Paul Blom, our former bishop wrote to me, “Ken was one of the “solid” pastors I was privileged to serve with. He was always a strong advocate of the mission of the church. He had a heart for the those in need. His passion and compassion worked side by side. I really appreciated serving with him.”

Pastor David Roschke says Ken was an active and annual participant in Confirmation Camp at Lutherhill for the Houston week. He and other pastors would team-teach in the mornings. The kids got acquainted with other Lutheran kids from Houston. During the week, we’d generally have a pastors’ musical act in the talent shows. Ken Ribe was a fabulous tenor! He did an amazing “Danny Boy.” Ken and Bernice were/are faithful and good people who love Christ and Christ’s church.

The family remembers Rainbow Trout fishing in Colorado. Seafarer’s golf tournament every year we played in.

Bernice says she was raised Lutheran by her parents. Ken was Presbyterian when they were married. He started going with her. Ken said he wanted to become a Lutheran. They joined St. James in Oak Forest.

Then Ken came home from working at Exxon one day and out of the blue and said, “I want to go to seminary and do what Pastor Dell Dolton is doing.” They sold their house and second car and headed for Columbia South Carolina.

Rick said the kids enjoyed seminary. Made a lot of friends wherever we went.

Bernice: They were always a couple. Did everything together. She was involved in women’s groups. Suppers. A lot of hospital visits with him. Funerals or weddings. He enjoyed his work.

Rick: Dad enjoyed his work. Living Word: Dad just went out and knocked on doors. No list. No nothing. Just cold calling.

Rick: Dad told me 7-8 years ago, “I’m not afraid to die. In a strange kind of way, I’m kind of looking forward to it to see how it all works. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in a hurry. Just curious.”

Bernice: We were high school sweethearts. Knew each other 75 years. We dearly, dearly loved each other. I will miss him desperately. But he was getting weaker. It was his time.

For each of us, this day comes. And how shall we greet it? What shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? Will we trust? Will we fear?

We proclaim the good news that Ken proclaimed and to which he dedicated his life. We heard this good news in Romans 8: that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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