Getting Ready for Sunday by the Rev. Fabian Villalobos

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Eight Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 12 Year A

Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

This is the reassurance that God is always there for us; He is really the Emmanuel, God with us, who maintains His promise and supports our prayer life to keep us in communion with Him in a way that no words can express.

These verses are also a reminder that we humans are weak and have moments of weakness. That there are moments in life when we don’t know how to pray and yes, it is in those moments when the Spirit intercedes for us.  God searches and knows the heart of all.

Perhaps now that we know the faithfulness of God and His presence from these verses, we are able to accept and understand better this verse from Romans Chapter 8,  

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Circumstances and situations we dislike or don’t want to accept; moments in life where pain, sorrow, discomfort, or despair take over our lives; moments where we search without finding meaning or blessed moments we can’t explain- we know everything that occurs is connected in one way or another with the divine providence of God.

All things, all moments, all events and people, all that happen, work together for good. “Even the hairs of your head are all counted” (Mt 10:30).  God is always in control. Things we understand or are beyond our understanding, at the end, will find purpose and reason to be in the eyes of God.

The fact that God helps us in our weaknesses and that all things work together for those who love God prove His involvement and compassion for us and our human history. When we continue reading Paul’s letter to the Romans for this Sunday, we hear that our faith and communion with God in Jesus is guaranteed.

If God is for us, who is against us?Who will separate us from the love of Christ?

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The only obstacle God could find is our closed heart; from God’s perspective He is always going to offer us a communion. There is a permanent place for us in His sight and nothing that happens outside ourselves could break the covenant of love in Jesus that God has establish with us.

God’s faithfulness and compassion is a disarming offer in front of our human weakness of sin and limitations. His presence in our lives represents the truth that our heart is constantly seeking.

His Kingdom is well above all we can imagine or understand, as Jesus mentions in today’s Gospel:   

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard like like treasure like a merchant in search of fine like a net that was thrown into the sea...

All these images of the Kingdom confirm what Paul had stated before, “all things work together for good for those who love God.” A Kingdom of possibilities and opportunities is accessible for us through our Baptism; not only we are children of God; we are also heirs of His Kingdom.

The Rev. Fabian Villalobos
Rector, Christ Church, Dallas

Getting Ready for Sunday

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Jacob and Esau. What's the point of this here? And how do we make sense of Esau? The red hair, the hunt, the birthright? Esau comes to us more like a barbarian than the civilized (implied Torah observant) Jacob. Esau appears as a stranger from the womb, though the same womb as his brother. This stranger has rights to the promises, but they are lost to him, as seemed rightful from the start. The outsider was destined to lose.

What's the point here?

Is rejected Esau only necessary as a foil to highlight that Jacob is chosen? But is it necessary to do that in such a blunt fashion, one brother over another? Paul tells us that this is exactly the point, so that grace might be established. By divine choice the promise is carried forward, not blood. If so, what then happens to Esau? What happens to the rejected one? Is the foil simply dismissed? But why repeat this pattern over and over in the OT? Cain and Able, Abraham and Lot, Jacob and Esau, Saul and David, Israel and Judah? If the rejected is dismissed and destined to wither under the sun of the chosen, why does the OT keep circling around the rejected?

Let's ask this another way. What was the purpose of the laws in Leviticus? Many seem to have been given in order to separate the people from the Canaanites. If you can't eat pork, you can't eat in a Canaanite home that does. If you are forced to dress in a certain way, then you will always stand apart. Jew and Gentile were to remain distinct and separate.

But in Christ both are joined together. Gentile and Jew found in the one flesh of Christ. The offense of such an idea! The humiliation! Jews on par with Gentiles! And the confusion. Where these not laws given by God to his people? Inviolable, perpetual laws, recorded by Moses on Sinai in the deafening thunder and blinding lightening? And so the Pharisees are shocked at Jesus. Peter himself is shocked at the net full of unclean creatures. Jewish Christians are shocked at the ministry of Paul.

But this idea was always in the OT. God embracing all began in Genesis (earth and water, sun and moon), then continued in the life of his own people (Saul and David, Judah and Israel). Jesus may have looked and dressed like a Jew, but he took the skin of not only a Jew, but of a Canaanite as well.

So, why the distinctions to begin with? Why Esau and Jacob? Because the Gospel is not Gnostic. It must be embodied. And if embodied, it must look like something. God never preached a generic abstract bodiless love. He committed himself to a particular form; he chose it and lived and died by it. Limits need not mean the need to reject those on the other side. It means gratefulness for your form as given to you by God and living and dying in the form. And it means submitting to the form chosen by God to carry his promise forward. Without that there is no Gospel. For without commitment to a form there is no incarnation, no Israel, no Abraham, no creation (and all the struggles that most certainly will attend commitment to your form! Israel struggled in horrible convultions merely leaning to be Israel. Jesus himself said, "How long must I remain with you?" But remain he did, unto death.)

Beware the American conception of the individual. It is almost entirely disembodied gnosticism, as if the human person was unformed clay. Not so. The clay has already been formed and given breath. Why else did Paul say that it is not important if a slave is freed, but to accept one's place in life (one's form!). You may look like a Canaanite, you may look like a Jew, but you cannot look like a Jew today, a Canaanite tomorrow. The form is given. Embrace. Be grateful. Live. Die. And wait for the resurrection. If you are a Canaanite, fine. But you must bow before the chosen Jew. And if you are a Jew, so be it. But you must welcome the rejected Canaanite. For such was the reconciliation of Jacob and Esau. The rejected Esau welcomed home the chosen son. And Jacob embraced his rejected brother. Thus becoming one new man.

Esau couldn't escape his form. He woke up with it, was born with it. It doesn't mean he's out of reach from the covenant promises. It does mean that he must come to terms with rejection, in order to be chosen.

One's form may be Esau or Jacob. Neither are out of reach of the incarnation. Although the promise may be carried forward by only one (David is over Saul and Judah over Israel), even still, both are contained in the one flesh of the Son of Man, who was both chosen and rejected.

Paul may have said that the promise is established by grace alone, not blood, but the shock that fell upon Israel in the  incarnation is that the divine choice has been for all, Jew and Gentile, chosen and rejected, to be embraced by Christ. Even the rejected branch will be grafted back into the tree. For there is now no condemnation for those in Christ. 


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