Reformation Sunday, ‘17
Jeremiah 31:31-34; John 8:31-36
Freedom is a theme in today’s reading from the Gospel of John. And that makes sense because this is Reformation Sunday and freedom was a major issue for Martin Luther and the other original reformers,. In fact, one of his most famous writings is called “The Freedom of a Christian.”
But “freedom” is one of those words that can end up meaning many different things to many different people. We certainly see that in our country today. Football players should have the freedom to kneel during the national anthem. Football players should not kneel for the national anthem because it show disrespect for the freedom so many have fought and worked for. Freedom of speech is central to our democracy. Everyone has the right to say what they believe. At the same time some are saying they should have the freedom to no hear or listen to opinions they don’t like. We are free to choose from hundreds of different boxes of cereal at the grocery stores. Others go hungry. Freedom can mean many things.
20th Sunday after Pentecost
Matthew 22: 15-22; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
How should a person of faith relate to his or her government?
This question was raised at the interfaith gathering in Cedar Commons two weeks ago.
I sat on a panel with a Muslim and a Bahai colleague, and none of us had an easy answer.
What is the value of institution and order? When is the time for resistance, even revolution? And
what does God have to say?
These are questions I have been asking myself since last November.
And it is question which our passage today addresses, although Jesus didn’t have easy answers before him, either. The religious authorities knew that Jewish people resented being taxed by a Roman government, and the Herodians—supporters of Herod, the Jewish governor who was more or less a puppet for Roman authority—wouldn’t let Jesus get away with any hint of revolution.
Jesus seemed to be in a trap, but he walked right through. Scripture says that his answer amazed them.
So what did he say exactly?
Give to the emperor what belongs to the emperor
and to God what belongs to God...
19th Sunday after Pentecost
Isaiah 25:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14
This gospel reading is a tough one. Someone has said that religion is supposed to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. If that’s true this parable certainly does the second – if you really read it, these words from Jesus afflict the comfortable. All parables are meant to shake us up and make us ask hard questions about God and ourselves. This one really does that. And there is no way to make this parable easier and still do justice to it. One commentator said that if it were to be made into a movie it would be a horror film.
Back in the time of Jesus, and maybe even today, being invited to a royal wedding was something that brought more honor to a person and their family more than any other kind of event. Especially if it was the wedding of the king’s son. It’s the kind of thing you would put on your calendar, circle in red, and show up no matter what else might be going on in your life or in the world.
But that’s not what happened in this story....
This month, Jane shared a reflection on Trinity's ministry with colleagues in the Minneapolis Area Synod of the ELCA. Read what she wrote:
Text: Matthew 21: 23-32; Philippians 2:1-18
"By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?"
In other words,
Jesus, who put YOU in charge?
So asked the religious authorities, who for all intents and purposes really were in charge,
at least in human terms,
It was their job to keep order, to uphold tradition.
Just before our gospel passage today picks up, Jesus arrived in Jerusalem and not one day passed before this guy started making a ruckus. Flipping tables in the Temple, accusing the money changers and vendors of making his Father’s house a “den of thieves.”
This bum from Nazareth, what did he know?
It’s not like the marketplace below the temple was purposeless--
People needed to buy animals in order to make sacrifice,
to perform their religious duties.
And people needed the right currency to buy the animals, hence the money changers.
It’s not like there was no design behind this system, it made sense,
in human terms.