Getting Ready for Sunday by the Rev. Paul Klitzke

Luke 12:13-21

Wealth is such a contentious topic.  Apparently our concern with wealth is deeply engrained in our humanity, as it seems it has been problematic for generation upon generation.  Jesus confronts our obsession with money and wealth repeatedly in the Gospels, perhaps these confrontations live on in our hearts as we read the stories still.  This abiding concern over wealth seems particularly troublesome when it comes to inheritance.  As if the struggles around wealth in society weren’t enough, quarrels over inheritance often split otherwise meaningful relationships at times.  It is disheartening to consider how many families have been fragmented over such disagreements.

Scripture offers a great deal of guidance about wealth.  The law even delineates specific expectation about inheritance.  In theory, this could help us avoid the heartbreak and anguish of sorting out it out from scratch.  However, laws are left to interpretation and can be further complicated by practical consideration.  By the law, the eldest son would inherit a double portion.  That double portion came with certain expectation too, the eldest son now held more responsibility to care for the widow and their siblings.

As Jesus is called upon from the crowd, to enforce, or at least help interpret the law, he further challenges our understanding.  As is often the case, Jesus redirects us to God and the purpose of the laws; refusing to be lured into questions and interpretation, Jesus calls the crowd to consider how wealth distracts us from God.

Jesus addresses the man directly, not quibbling over the details of the man’s particular situation, but cautioning us against greed.  The parable that follows is a stark reminder of how possessions, no matter how dearly we hold them, are fleeting.  It is easy to be deceived and put false hope in wealth, that it may make our lives easier.  Indeed, a great many things can be made easier, at least temporarily, by wealth.  But the real concern is how one can be rich toward God.

Jesus offers clear direction as to how to be rich toward God throughout the Gospel.  Follow him.  Love God.  Love your neighbor.  Be known by love.  May we know the power of love to be greater than that of wealth.  May we witness to the everlasting nature of love, over and against the wealth of the world that often fades away.  May the Spirit of God unite us in the love of God, that we may be known to be rich in love and rich toward God.

The Rev. Paul Klitzke is rector of Church of the Ascension in Dallas

Getting Ready for Sunday by the Rev. Thomas Kincaid

Colossians 2:6-15

Here we find St. Paul both exceptionally clear and exceptionally vague.

On the side of clarity, Paul makes a straight forward presentation of the basics of the Gospel’s atoning message.  Verses 11-14 present the most rudimentary basics of our salvation: We are made part of God’s saved people not through a circumcision made with hands, but by the death and resurrection of our baptisms which unite us with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We were dead in our sins, Paul continues, but are made alive through the work of Christ that “cancel[s] the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (v14)

Interestingly, however, the Apostle to the Gentiles surrounds this basic and clear atonement message with a more vague set of counters to that message.  Verse 8 warns the Colossians against “philosophy,” “empty deceit,” “human tradition,” and “elemental spirits.”  On the other end of the passage in verse 15, Paul claims Christ’s atonement represents a disarming, shaming, and triumph over “rulers and authorities.”

The clear Christocentric alternative to these less-specific threats can leave us wondering what exactly Paul is trying to accomplish in this brief section.  Here Chris Seitz is helpful.  He identifies that whatever Paul is getting at, “this is [his frame of reference.  This frame of reference is far more decisive in my view, than seeking to learn what the specifics of religious practice were in the Lycus Valley and then finding a way to determine with certainty what Paul might know of that and how he might know it.”  (Christopher Seitz, Colossians (2014: Brazos Press, Grand Rapids), p 121.  In Seitz’s view, Paul is calling us to focus on the centrality of Jesus Christ’s atoning ministry contrary to whatever else human beings posit in opposition.

There are numerous ways to preach Paul’s claims.  One option is simply to develop Paul’s atonement theology with specific focus on leaving behind our past sins (both individual and communal) for the sake of living as God’s people in the world.  Implicit in this argument is call toward the mission of the church and of God’s people.

Another way of preaching this text would be to take Paul’s engagement with human customs as the focus.  In particular, the question of the role of human traditions, even those developed within the church, were a contentious question in early Anglicanism.  In fact, Richard Hooker’s work on ecclesiastical laws were developed in response to this question.  How should Anglicans regard the customs and practices within the church which had grown up over time, but which are not mandated in scripture?  This text here in particular seemed to condemn any rituals and actions as detracting from the teaching of the gospel.   However, Anglicans realized that the answer was not the rejection of all rituals devised by humans, but understanding them in their proper place and role.  The rituals do not bring salvation, but can be useful for the teaching and building up of the church.  Just as Paul wrote in Romans 14:23, Gentile Christians have been given freedom, but that freedom should be used for building up of the body.  Although Anglicans could not agree (and still have not) on exactly which customs developed in the church should be required and which let go of, even the most bitter opponents in debate were usually able to agree on these key requirements.  Brian Tierney summarizes the agreed upon points as:  (1) The customs must not be morally offensive.  (2)  “All must be done “with order and comeliness” (3)”for edification” and (4) “for the glory of God.” (Brian Tierney, Liberty and Law : The Idea of Permissive Natural Law, 1100-1800. (2014: Catholic University of America Press, Washington), p169.)

The Rev. S. Thomas Kincaid, III is Vice Rector at Church of the Incarnation in Dallas

 

 

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This is a blog of essays meant to prepare parishioners for an upcoming Sunday reading.