Ref-lectionary for the Week of October 14th, 2014

It’s a good day to get a hot drink and sit down with your Bible and I have been taking advantage of that after getting the “Model of the Eye” project to middle school and the other girls off to grandma’s house for the morning.  I am preaching Sunday, so I wanted to get through the lessons and see if they would start to lead me somewhere.  I think they are and I hope they will take you closer to God as you read and pray over them this week as well.  Here they are:

So, first a few notes on what we are given this week.  We are continuing the Exodus study, working with a parallel psalm, starting five weeks of examining Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonika, and wrapping up a long series of parables in which Jesus put us on the spot with the story of how he responded when some enemies put him on the spot.

All four of the passages raise some questions about church and state, about faith and community and national identity.

·         Moses trusted that his nation had God’s unique presence in its exodus from Egypt.  “In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people . . .” (Exodus 33:16).

·         Psalm 99 makes it clear that it is the LORD and not any other that must be king in our lives.  God is holy.  And following on lessons with the Ten Commandments it is clear this means God alone.  Whether our country is the USA or Mexico or Germany, we are to look beyond nationalism to God, to the transcendent maker and ruler of all creation.  “The Lord is King.”  (Psalm 99:1,4).

·         Paul’s letters to the Philippians (not read this week, but worth comparing) and Thessalonians speak to churches in Macedonian cities that were important to the Roman Empire.  Paul himself was imprisoned when he wrote Philippians.  He speaks to the persecution in Thessalonians where, despite their troubles, the people have “received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6).  These Gentile believers had crossed the line.  Are we willing to do the same?  Really?  What lines are we crossing?  What lines are we called to cross?  What lines are uncomfortable for us?  Legal lines?  Economic lines?  Cultural lines?  Lines of decency?

·         Jesus, too, considers the fine line between respecting authority and offering a national allegiance in the text from Matthew’s gospel.  It is a line that can seems so innocuous but can easily make you into a functional atheist.  The fix is in on Jesus in this passage.  His opponents are looking to trap him.  They want to trap him and he turns it into a memorable, teachable moment.  It is Jesus the Super Human, too-slippery-to-be-caught-by-the-tricky-Pharisees that draws a sacred line between “the things that are the emperor’s” and “the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).\

It seems to me the question all of the texts are raising is where is that line for you?  If your faith convictions bump up against national policy or authority, where do you draw the line?  Would your faith ever compel you to do something that your government would consider “crossing the line?”  How?  And how are we called to do that together?  How is the church called to cross the line?

I am going to stop with that for now and hope my thoughts will help you focus on these texts through the week.

Peace to you all.  And thanks for being the church.

John

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