painting of medieval church in summer

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In class this morning, we had just started identifying themes we wanted to talk about in relation to Luke 13:22-30 when one of the members mentioned something about Jesus saying to sit down at the end of the table, so you would be invited to take a better seat (Luke 14, next chapter), and I was a little speechless for a minute, so I had to explain that “Oh, no! That reminds me of a really dirty joke I heard on the internet that is about that exact text” and our pastor came in from his office [which is next door] and said “Oh, what joke is that?” so after all that it had to be told … [I suppose the joke is really more R-rated, really] and I didn’t get into too much trouble.

We think the Luke passage has something to do with salvation. That word “strive” sounds like we’d better exert ourselves somehow, and the idea of the door being closed does not sound “very nice” to us – we might not want to think about God that way, and especially about the Father of the Prodigal Son. So what kind of striving is Jesus talking about here? We went around and around on this one. Taking care of the poor. Doing what Jesus tells us. Except, we don’t believe that’s what gets us saved, that’s God’s grace through Jesus Christ.

[Although that’s not what Jesus says in Luke 13. Just sayin’. We could ask ourselves what kind of striving we’re doing if we’re running or reaching out to make that subway car? That elevator? If we were trying to be precise about this, Jesus seems to be emphasizing the urgency of the situation, the notion that we are faced with an opportunity that may not come around again, or at least not very soon. Whatever Jesus is talking about here, it does not seem to be happening in the distant future, it is happening now.]

And then in church we read 2 Corinthians 8:7-15. “For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has – not according to what one does not have.” And Mark 5:21-43. (Mark’s heartrending version of the story of the raising of Jairus’ daughter … and the woman on the way. It’s not even supposed to be her story … ) “If I but touch … his … clothes …”

What “the woman hiding in the crowd” was doing, maybe that is striving.

What Jesus did, that was grace.

Healing happens, our pastor said, when people “brush against the presence of Christ in the world.”

People need touch. Maybe this has something to do with the image of God in us; maybe this is why Jesus comes to our world as someone who can touch, and be touched [in appropriate ways – we know so too much about how this kind of thing can go wrong, and it’s no joke] – that is, someone who can be present, who can pass the peace, hold a hand, give a hug – because human beings need touch the way we need water and air, it’s a fact. What do we do with that, he asked? Do we understand that we, the embodied human beings we are, are enough – that being present, “in touch” with people, that itself is ministry?

And then, our pastor reassured us that, although there is a lot less stuff in his office recently, it’s not because he’s leaving (yay!), but because he was tidying up. In the process he found a number of notes from our friend who moved to Bloomington, and so, because of one of those suggestions, we affirmed our faith using the words of the Creed from A New Zealand Prayer Book (p 481),

You, O God, are supreme and holy.
You create our world and give us life. Your purpose overarches everything we do.
You have always been with us.
You are God.

You, O God, are infinitely generous, good beyond all measure.
You came to us before we came to you.
You have revealed and proved Your love for us in Jesus Christ, Who lived and died and rose again.
You are God.

You, O God, are Holy Spirit.
You empower us to be your gospel in the world.
You reconcile and heal; you overcome death. You are our God.
We worship You.

By going out, we hope, to be that presence of Christ in the world that people brush up against. In a good way.

painting of medieval church in summer

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