1. Exodus 19, 2-6
- Today I tell a story about an encounter of Israel with the living God.
The Israelites came to the desert of Sinai and pitched camp. So far, so good.
- Then Moses went up the mountain to God – up into
sacred space, I will make clear – and God begins to speak. But how will
God speak? How does God speak in our assembly today?
- I hear God speaking as a protector of the people: How I bore you up on eagle wings. But most of all God gives a purpose
to their lives and aspirations. I brought
you here to myself. Hearken to my
voice and keep my covenant.
- God dedicates the people and invites them to a new, more fulfilling
vocation. Again, I hear: My special possession,
a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. I remember the hymn Priestly People as I interpret the words from Exodus.
- The climax comes in the last sentence, as I hear the full repercussion
of God’s plan for Israel. The deliverance from Egypt was only the beginning.
- Message for our assembly: The followers of Jesus took up this
invitation in a serious way. The words of vocation are repeated in the New Testament
letters. The entire church has been called to priesthood. Do we truly believe this? How can I help the process along?
- I will challenge myself: To fill God’s voice with grand welcoming
and generous invitation. God has given freedom to the people of the book, and
redemption to the people in this assembly. I want us all to feel called to holiness,
as the Constitution on the Church reminds us.
2. Romans 5, 6-11
- Jesus Christ takes the lead, according to the apostle. What
are we? Do I believe the litany I hear: still
helpless, ungodly, still sinners, even enemies! Am
I lovable, are we lovable? God proves
his love for us.
- And then listen to all that has happened to us, the passive voice over and over: justified,
saved, reconciled, once and a second
time. Let them roll off my tongue so that we will all know that we boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We owe it all to Jesus,
who has reversed our bitter fate. We are no longer godless but justified.
- In the words of the apostle, it didn’t end with the cross.
How much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life. We continue into the community of believers and we carry on his life and example.
- There is a certain attempt, throughout the revised Lectionary, to re-shape our living vernacular in the model of church
Latin. The verses from Romans that we will read throughout the summer are filled
with phrases that were difficult enough as the apostle dictated them. Now they
have become even more challenging thanks to these stilted versions. I just quoted
one example. Here’s another: Indeed,
only with difficulty does one die. Conscious
complexity like that irritates me like a nagging dragonfly in the sunlight, but I will not be thrown off course. The living Word will not be stifled even by the best intentioned of liturgical commissions, and never by
me if I can help it.
- The message for our assembly: Nothing in our experience on earth can prepare us for such an abundance
of love. Many of us know that we would be willing to give our own lives for our
spouse, our children, a dear friend. We may even know someone who died for us. And as I say one might even find courage to
die, I look on my listeners tenderly and they look back on me knowingly as if to say: “You got that right! That one is me.” There is nothing
wrong with appealing to deep emotions, as long as it is there in the reading and as long as I do it in a spontaneous and opportunistic
way. I will not take advantage of my listeners’ good faith, but rather
acknowledge and enhance it.
- Climax: Jesus is God’s gift to us. Christ died for us.
- I will challenge myself: To remind everyone in my hearing that God acts first in everything. Our stewardship slogans are one of the many responses we make to that first free gift. Let me make God my boast.
Gospel. Matthew 9, 36 - 10, 8
- The passage begins with the compassion of Jesus at the sight of the crowds. This detail is important because it shows me where Christian ministry began and what
should always inspire it.
- Jesus’ heart was moved with… (fill in the blank) … opportunism? … scorn? … ambition? … distaste? … condescension? Or with pity! Let me say this as if I cared how Jesus felt for the crowd
in Galilee or the assembly in my own city.
- And he invites us to ask the master of the harvest to send out... (fill
in the blank) … leaders? …
professionals? … clergy? …
religious? Or laborers! Servants, as we are accustomed to say. There are no ranks
in the kingdom of God. The way I speak these words will make the difference in
the assembly today. Everyone can assume the role of laborer, so everyone who
hears me is called.
- Then I repeat the words of the ministry that the apostles exercise together with Jesus. I remember the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah. The
apostles are to free the people they meet, with authority over unclean spirits to
drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness.
- Where does their vocation come from? Jesus sent them out. How far does their vocation take them? Listen: Without cost you have received; without
cost you are to give.
- I hear the names of real people whom Jesus summoned and gave authority. I will take my time so that everyone is reminded who they are: a cross-section of
the country where Jesus worked, fishermen, publicans, dreamers good – yes, and bad, too.
They happen to be male (yes, and also married and unlettered and Galileans) but that is a secondary detail for me. The call to ministry is universal.
- Central theme: Through people like the apostles and the Christians who follow them, the good news of
the kingdom will reach beyond the house of Israel to the whole world: curing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing lepers, driving out demons.
Which Christians are accomplishing this mission today?
- Message for our assembly: We are all called to spread the good news.
- I will challenge myself: To say the word laborer as if I mean it, that
there are no ranks in the church.