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Third Sunday after Pentecost June 17, 2012 (Lectionary 11).

Ezekiel 17:22-24

Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15 (12)

2 Corinthians 5:6-10 [11-13] 14-17

Mark 4:26-34

First Reading

Ezekiel 17:22-24 -- Right in the middle of a parable of judgment, Ezekiel relieves Gods people with three verses of hope. From captivity in Babylon, Ezekiel prophesies against Zedekiah, the puppet king of Jerusalem who has sworn a solemn oath to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Zedekiah broke his oath and sought the help of Egypt in the hope that an alliance with the stronger nation would threaten Nebuchadnezzar and ultimately free the Israelites. However, God did not abide Zedekiahs plan and promises his destruction under Babylon. Using imagery of the branch (a messianic image also found in Jeremiah) planted by God himself, Ezekiel promises that ultimately Gods people will not be held captive. But, it will not be because the kings of Judah craft schemes as Zedekiah had done; it will be because God will plant a new branch, and under that new branch/ king, all of God's people will flourish. It will be Gods doing in Gods time.

Psalm 92: 1--4, 12-15 -- I happen to be a lover of the psalms. Never one to accept the notion that a prayer is only sincere if it is original to the one praying and made up on the spot, the psalms are my prayers. In my own prayer life, I gravitate toward the laments and ascents. Psalm 92 is in the category "vindication" that I personally resonate with the least. My Lutheran guilt and doubt bristle at the self-assured onewho prays, "Thank you to God for choosing me/ us (the righteous ones) over them (the evil ones)." Then I remember what the psalms are and are not. They are the prayers from the heart of a human being who is part of an ancient (yet continuing), real, broken, and beautiful human community. The

words are not prescriptive; they do not tell us how to pray or feel. However, they do give us a glimpse into the heart of God's people then, and open our hearts to Gods people now

2 Corinthians5:6-10[11-13] 14-17 -- In his dealings with the Corinthian church, Paul has had to defend himself against all kinds of accusations regarding his integrity, authenticity; and sincerity. He has many reasons to be dismissive, accusatory and defensive. We know that Paul is capable of real hate and violence from how he describes the way he persecuted Christians before meeting Jesus. So his sentence, "From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view," is weighty. How hard it must be for him to see and treat the Corinthians through the lens of Christ crucified! Nevertheless, in this one statement Paul describes the difference that Jesus has made in his own life. Jesus has died for all (including these troublesome Corinthian Christians!), and so now Paul only knows all people through the filter of divine grace. I wonder, what does your world look like when you see it through grace-colored glasses?

Mark4:26-34--Ihe kingdom of God is like... Can you complete that sentence? Can you find m ordinary image, like "one who scatters seed on the ground," and augment the image to provoke further thought? The kingdom of God is like a farmer whose life revolves around the mysterious growth cycle of seeds planted in the earth, not his own agenda or timetable. Or can you take an object--like the burdensome mustard seed/plant that, when it lands in a garden, immediately regenerates and becomes nearly impossible to get rid of--and describe chat object like it might be a. good thing? How do you talk with people about the kingdom of God? Do you talk about it in certainties or in paradoxes? Do you talk about it humbly with questions or with staid religious jargon? Maybe a sermon could be crafted around the joy of not knowing what these parables mean exactly, but musings about what they might suggest for your particular context. They aren't meant to be understood once and for all. Instead, they invite us in to a way of hearing and seeing our world anew each day

Pastoral Reflection

Having spent some time in each of the readings, I am surprised to say that my leaning would be toward the history lesson in Ezekiel. I found myself learning this story again. What is most interesting about how this story is told is that Ze-dekiah was not rewarded for his actions to free Jerusalem from the Babylonians even though ultimately, God plans to do just that. Nevertheless, even in captivity, God expects integrity from the Israelites, and Zeclekiah broke his solemn oath to Nebuchadnezzar. Period. Never mind that Nebuchadnezzar is the king of Babylon, the enemy and oppressor of Israel. Enemy or not, God's people and Gods kings need to reflect their God by honoring their solemn oaths, covenants, and promises,

I hear pastors, myself included, bemoan the trend that people seem to honor promises less and less these days. The list of societal ills that grow out of this phenomenon is long: divorce, neglected children, mistrust of government, mistrust of everyone, etc. In the church pastors make promises to care for congregations and congregations make promises to honor a pastor for his/her work's sake. In synod life I see this promise broken a lot. In the parish I never slept well as the yearly Confirmation worship service neared knowing that this hundred-year-old system of discipleship formation perpetuated acycle where children were set up to publicly make promises that they did not have the support or will to keep.

What are we doing? Why make promises we will not keep? Why say we will do something we will not do? And furthermore, why is this okay with us? If this is the behavior we expect and accept of ourselves, it is easy to see why people both inside and outside the church are unconvinced of our integrity or relevance to a world aching for someone or something trustworthy. The gospel message is that God promises to love us NO MATTER WHAT. A God who is always faithful to that promise possesses us. As congregations, we can and must be more obvious reflections of God's faithfulness in the ways we live and work together.
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Title Annotation:Preaching Helps
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2012
Previous Article:Second Sunday after Pentecost June 10, 2012 (lectionary 10).
Next Article:Fourth Sunday after Pentecost June 24, 2012 (Lectionary 12).

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