2 April 2019 — Fourth Tuesday of Lent

Genesis 12:1-7, Ruth 2:13–19, Job 31:24–32

For many of us (if not most), the call of Abram (who would become Abraham) doesn’t seem that significant from a strictly human perspective. Yes, any of us would find being called by God significant, but the calling away from relatives and land is not so strange. This is not the case here. There is a relationship with the land. The land of one’s ancestors. There is also the concept of leaving one’s family.

American culture, especially Western American culture, has some significant breaks with the culture of Abram. The settler and/or explorer mentality which underlies much of American founding is not conducive to family roots, or least always staying near home. America celebrates individuality and individual freedom to culturally understand what God is having Abram do. The only exception to this break had been agricultural families, but with the increasing transformation from family to corporate farms, even that is going away.

Abram was separated from his family and land by choice. Yes, it was God’s direction, but in his culture, leaving was a big break. While he had his household, he was now a household of wanderers. Where is home for such wandering group? By leaving the ties of the land, Abram would now effectively be a guest wherever he went.

Ruth was the same. Yes, she had married an Israelite, but he was dead. She didn’t have to leave her homeland. However, in her heart she had made a decision that her husband’s family was truly her own, breaking her family ties. What made her decision even more significant was that all that was left of her husband’s immediate family was his widowed mother. Not much of a family structure for support. Now that Ruth and Naomi were back in Israelite land, Ruth was now responsible for both. By the grace of God, she fell into the care of Boaz, a distant relative. Boaz welcomed her above and beyond a servant. He truly welcomed her to his table to eat. She had no functional value to him, yet he welcomed her.

And welcoming others to the table is what Job did, too. He was righteous in this. It wasn’t that he had a long line of people that would take advantage of this ( strong cultural taboo against it), so turning people away likely didn’t happen. He welcomed people to the table.

1) Abram was a guest. Why would other landowners welcome him to their table? Why might they not?

2) Culturally, much of American culture has turned away from welcoming strangers (hospitality). Why do you think that is? When do you think it started to change?

3) Generations Community Church (along with the Church of the Nazarene) practices “Open Communion.” How does that apply to Abram, Ruth, and Job? How do Abram, Ruth, and Job apply to “Open Communion?”

1 April 2019 — Fourth Monday of Lent

Psalm 16, Luke 24:13–35

Psalm 16 is considered by many to be a Messianic Psalm. Peter and Paul both seemed to have some agreement on this as they appear to have referenced as it appears to be referenced to by them in a number of places. One of the contrasts is the cup of blood (v4) and the cup of blessing (v5). The cup of blood is what is used to pour out the drink offering. This is a play on the “right” drink offering before God, which was the fruit of the vine. Instead, this blood offering is an unrighteous offering, not only because of the conflict of the drink offering but also—and primarily—the offering was to a god other than God. In other words, those who were making these blood offerings had chosen to follow false gods for their security.

On the contrary, the cup of blessing is a Godly portion which holds promise and blessing. The cup of blessing comes with an inheritance. The cup of blessing comes with Godly fortitude (not false fortitude). The cup of blessing comes with security. And, lastly, the cup of blessing comes with the path of eternal life. With all of that, one can easily see why Messianic is applied to this psalm, especially in the context of communion.

In the context of scripture (and yesterday’s sermon), we have talked about the institution of communion, which was Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples, and was observed within the context of Passover. One could say that Cleopas and the other disciple (some believe it was his wife) experienced the first “true” communion. In many ways, it is the exclamation point on Paul’s words, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”(1 Corinthians 11:26). Seeing is believing. They saw their Lord alive after he was dead, and declared alive again. They became witnesses to his bodily resurrection. What a way to know in your heart what the new covenant included!

1) Do you remember your first communion? If not, that’s okay. If you do, what do you remember? Do you remember the last communion you took? If so, what do you remember?

2) In certain church communities communion is taken individually Why do you think that is? Generations Community this coming Sunday, will take communion in framily groups? Why is this important?

3) Why is the individual and group taking of communion important? What does this tell us about church-, faith-, and community-life?

31 March 2019 — Forth Sunday during Lent

Isaiah 12:2–6, Jeremiah 31:31–34, Luke 22:14–20

Isaiah is often not filled with much encouragement. This particular “song”, however, is a pronouncement of the saved telling the unsaved that they can be saved.

Isaiah starts out with his salvation, and that his relationship with God is sound. He then tells the wayward hearer that they will joyfully (note they are miserable) draw water of their salvation. Then they will sing praises to God. Springs of salvation, or could we say Living Water? What do you think?

Water is life. This is a special truth in the desert, where water is scarce. From a scriptural standpoint, blood is the life of a creature. Thus when we come to communion, we are to consider both the aspect of blood as life (Jesus’ blood) and water as life (Jesus is the living water). When Isaiah speaks about the spring of salvation, it is reasonable to see a foreshadowing of communion.

With its darker tone (the blood of Jesus), it is also easy to see that this is not quite what had happened before, yet had similar attributes to the sacrificial practices of the Israelites. When Jeremiah speaks of a new covenant, there is little chance that the Israelites would have expected how that covenant would come to be. That this new covenant also changes how the “law” worked would also be beyond expectation. How would the Israelites “know” God’s law? It is not until the Holy Spirit is fully expressed that an understanding of this new way of the law fully revealed. There is also a special promise in Jeremiah’s New Covenant speech. If we all know God’s law, and have to be neither taught nor teach (admonish) others. Looking at the world around us, and our own lives, the only way that happens is if we fully yield ourselves to God. Yielding ourselves to God often starts with the simple acknowledgment that we cannot fully understand God.

The disciples didn’t fully understand God, and they spent 3 years with Jesus! Have you heard, if only Jesus were here, we’d get the real/whole story, and we’d understand (or even believe). If his disciples who were with him (even one going so far as to betray him) for years didn’t get it, would we be any more likely? With our post-Enlightenment and scientific tendencies, we might be even less likely to understand! Even Judas Iscariot (the betrayer) up to this point didn’t get what this specific night meant for the future. They were just celebrating Passover with Jesus.

When we celebrate communion (a sacrament), we become participants in this last meal.

Instead of the usual questions at the end (besides, there were plenty of questions already), we will end with Book of Common Prayer, Contemporary Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Lent:
Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down
from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world:
Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in
him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, now and for ever. Amen.