Acts of Love

October 29, 2017

Church of the Servant, Wilmington, NC
Proper 25, Year A
Leviticus 19:1-2,15-18; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46

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Gospel Text:

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’?

If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.. (Mt 22:34-46)

What is God’s

October 22, 2017

Church of the Servant, Wilmington, NC
Proper 24, Year A
Isaiah 45:1-7; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22

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Oh great, the scripture passage that tells us we should pay our taxes. Always a favorite! Of course, it might be more helpful if we hear it in April instead of October. And while this story is sometimes used in that way, it isn’t really about paying taxes.

The passage starts out by telling us what the Pharisees are up to. Remember, Jesus has been telling parables about the Kingdom of Heaven, and through these stories, illustrating how the Pharisees aren’t exactly living into the spirit of God’s law. So, now the Pharisees are trying to entrap Jesus by asking him a controversial question. They took the Herodians with them to witness Jesus’ answer. These are those in authority under King Herod, who governed the Hebrew people, and had a certain amount of independence even though the Roman Emperor had ultimate authority.

To keep this independence, Herod was expected to pay a tribute tax to Rome, which was collected from the Jews. So, with Herodians and Pharisees on the offensive, they began by trying to butter Jesus up a bit, saying:

“Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”

So these same Pharisees who were recently questioning by whose authority Jesus was teaching in the temple, are now addressing Jesus as “Teacher.” They’re saying he’s honest and teaches the truth of God. They go on to invite him to speak freely, reminding Jesus that he isn’t influenced by someone’s stature in society. He treats all people the same.

Don’t we see these same types of characters in every Disney movie ever made? We want to call out, “Don’t fall for it Jesus! They’re up to no good!”

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Maximizing the Middle Ring

October 8, 2017

Church of the Servant, Wilmington, NC
Proper 22, Year A
Isaiah 5:1-7; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46

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As most of you know, September 10th was my first Sunday at Church of the Servant. It was a festive day, with worship returning to its school-year schedule, including the Family service and Sunday school for all ages. All that plus a beautiful reception of welcome, made it a truly joy-filled day!

During the week that followed, as I was catching up with Barbara on administrative stuff, she mentioned that she had created an “overflow” mail slot for me, since my other mail slot was already very full. I have to admit, I hadn’t even thought about having a mail slot, let alone that anything would be in it after just one week!

So a bit later, I decided I better go through it. Amid the non-profit newsletters, fundraiser promotions, and liturgical supply catalogues, was a small cream-colored envelope, addressed by hand to The Rev. Jody Greenwood – finally, something to me! I guessed it was probably a welcome note, yet when I opened the card, the salutation was to me and the Vestry – piquing my curiosity further. It turned out to be an apology letter from one of our youth (who will remain nameless). It seems that on my first Sunday, during all the excitement, one able-bodied teen took their enthusiasm to new heights, literally, and got on the roof. Read the rest of this entry »

A Questioning Authority

October 1, 2017

Church of the Servant, Wilmington, NC
Proper 21, Year A
Ezekiel 18:1-4,25-32; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32

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Today’s gospel reading begins with Jesus in the temple. The chief priests and the elders came to him and asked, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Before we dive into that riveting question, let’s step back a minute.

Last we saw Jesus, he was on the road to Jerusalem, using parables to teach about the kingdom of heaven. Yet here we are today, with Jesus in Jerusalem teaching in the temple. Our lectionary has jumped over an important piece of the story. And it skipped a couple of our favorite scenes. We missed the Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem – disciples untying the donkey, the crowd waving branches and crying Hosannas as Jesus rides in. And then, even better, overturning the tables in the temple market. Jesus gets mad – we love that part!

Then it goes on to say, “The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them.” (Mt 21:14). And he begins teaching and the people are crying out, in the temple, “Hosanna to the son of David.”

The chief priests and scribes – those who are the ones in authority in the temple – see all this and wonder what the heck is going on. They’re angry and ask Jesus what he has to say for himself. And Jesus responds by quoting words of the prophets of old. “My house should be called a house of prayer” and “Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself.” And, as if that settles it, we’re told “He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.” Read the rest of this entry »

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