Sunday, June 26, 2016

Community For God's Sake

6th Sunday after Pentecost
On Matthew 27:1-26, Judas returns the money and hangs himself. Jesus is sentenced to death.   @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk

• There’s an old story of a farmer whose horse ran away (isn’t that horrible?) and came back with several wild horses (isn’t that great?)… It’s not necessarily easy or right to declare instances “good” or “bad”. Big picture is more accurate. And we don’t get the whole big picture.
I speak today on the mystery of the atonement.
On the one hand, today’s reading contains lots of bad news.
On other hand, that “bad news” is somehow part of God’s chosen means of salvation.
But what does that say about nature of God?
Therefore I say “mystery.” Somehow even in spite of humankind, salvation happens in event that we’re building up to.
• Issue of atonement aside, we have five pictures of people in this episode, four of them doing wrong when they know the right thing to do. I want to lift up one thing that would both help prevent such things and bring some healing and accountability. For God’s sake, it’s community. A group of like-minded people, both righteous and humble, and dispassionate. I’ll explain.
• Start with Judas. Yes, he had community, but he was lacking something (honesty, integrity? something.) (recall John 12:6 he would steal). Ya gotta be honest with community.
• The priests, they had community. But not humble. Blinded, off-track. Self-serving, they convinced themselves their deceitful actions were for the good of the whole.
• Pilate. Isolated by power, position. Alone and oddly powerless. He seeks to avoid responsibility, to appease the crowd.
• The people. Passionate – that is, mob mentality, not thinking reasonably.
• Claudia. One unnamed appearance in gospel, she does the right thing, but lacks power.
• Community, vital Christian community, like-minded, righteous, humble, dispassionate community. It was beginning of Methodism, it can strengthen, revitalize, grow churches now. People are isolated, seeking connection w/o judgment, needing accountability, place to share deeply. Get to know one another.
• And again, the mystery and grace of atonement.
Not entirely satisfactory to have Father premeditated violent substitutionary death,
also not entirely satisfactory to remove all aspects of substitutionary atonement.
Suffering servant from Isaiah 53 willing, plus the divine dialogue (
Human response: wonder. Worship. And for God’s sake, be in community.
What wondrous love is this that caused the soul of bliss to bear the dreadful curse? And when from death I’m free I’ll sing on…

• Hymn 292 What Wondrous Love is This

Matthew 27:1-26        (CEB)
27 Early in the morning all the chief priests and the elders of the people reached the decision to have Jesus put to death. 2 They bound him, led him away, and turned him over to Pilate the governor.
3 When Judas, who betrayed Jesus, saw that Jesus was condemned to die, he felt deep regret.
He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, and 4 said,
“I did wrong because I betrayed an innocent man.”
But they said, “What is that to us? That’s your problem.”
5 Judas threw the silver pieces into the temple and left. Then he went and hanged himself.
6 The chief priests picked up the silver pieces and said, “According to the Law it’s not right to put this money in the treasury. Since it was used to pay for someone’s life, it’s unclean.” 7 So they decided to use it to buy the potter’s field where strangers could be buried. 8 That’s why that field is called “Field of Blood” to this very day. 9 This fulfilled the words of Jeremiah the prophet: And I took the thirty pieces of silver, the price for the one whose price had been set by some of the Israelites, 10 and I gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.
11 Jesus was brought before the governor. The governor said, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus replied, “That’s what you say.” 12 But he didn’t answer when the chief priests and elders accused him.
13 Then Pilate said, “Don’t you hear the testimony they bring against you?”
14 But he didn’t answer, not even a single word. So the governor was greatly amazed.
15 It was customary during the festival for the governor to release to the crowd one prisoner, whomever they might choose. 16 At that time there was a well-known prisoner named Jesus Barabbas. 17 When the crowd had come together, Pilate asked them, “Whom would you like me to release to you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 He knew that the leaders of the people had handed him over because of jealousy.
19 While he was serving as judge, his wife sent this message to him,
“Leave that righteous man alone. I’ve suffered much today in a dream because of him.”
20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and kill Jesus.
21 The governor said, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”
“Barabbas,” they replied.
22 Pilate said, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”
They all said, “Crucify him!”
23 But he said, “Why? What wrong has he done?”
They shouted even louder, “Crucify him!”
24 Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere and that a riot was starting. So he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I’m innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It’s your problem.”
25 All the people replied, “Let his blood be on us and on our children.”
26 Then he released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus whipped, then handed him over to be crucified.  X

Isaiah 53        (The Message)  
53 Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?
    Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?
2-6 The Servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
    a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
    nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
    a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
    We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
    our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
    that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
    that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
    Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
    We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
    on him, on him.
7-9 He was beaten, he was tortured,
    but he didn’t say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
    and like a sheep being sheared,
    he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
    and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
    beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
    threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he’d never hurt a soul
    or said one word that wasn’t true.
10 Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,
    to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
    so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
    And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.
11-12 Out of that terrible travail of soul,
    he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
    will make many “righteous ones,”
    as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—
    the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,
    because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
    he took up the cause of all the black sheep. 

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