Monday, July 29, 2013

Preacher's Study - Year C, Proper 13 (18), 2013

Monday Morning in the Preacher’s Study
First thoughts about next Sunday’s sermon
(11th Sunday after Pentecost, August 4, 2013)

Frank Logue

This week in our second Old Testament track, we will hear the only fragment of the Ecclesiastes to sneak its way into the Revised Common Lectionary. Why are we seemingly allergic to this aphoristic text that the reformer Martin Luther called a “noble little book” and go so far as to recommend that Ecclesiastes should be read daily? Try sitting with the text this week and you may find the cynicism compelling, or you may decide with the framers of the lectionary that a little Ecclesiastes goes a long way.

Our reading begins, “Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” The key word in the text, translated in the NRSV as “vanity”, is the Hebrew word Hevel. A closer translation of the Hebrew word hevel would be something like, “A puff of wind of a puff of wind, everything is fleeting” as the plain sense meaning of hevel is “a puff of wind, vapor, a breath.”  The New Living Translation moves further away from that plain meaning to capture the essence of the book in translating Ecclesiastes 1:2, “Everything is meaningless, utterly meaningless.”

So the Good News this week is that everything we do amounts to nothing. All of our work, everything we become is nothing but a puff of wind, a fleeting breath, something so ephemeral that it is gone before it is fully formed. If you are reading this wondering what the Gospel has to offer, Jesus sounds like someone who has been reading Ecclesiastes each day with his parable of the rich man whose greatest felt need is for bigger barns to store the abundant fruit of his harvest.

The desire for more and better things seems hardwired into western culture and yet it is part of the “sinful desires that draw you from the love of God” which we renounce in our baptisms. To put our whole trust in God’s grace and love means not pinning our hopes on accomplishments any more than on things, for all of it is fleeting.

With this in view, I will be turning over Jesus words of warning this week that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” which he aims at “those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” As I work my way toward Sunday, the question I will be pondering is “How can we be rich toward God?” I hope these thoughts and that question assist you in your own sermon preparation.

Frank Logue is a member of the APLM Council having served previously as its secretary. He worked as a church planter in the Diocese of Georgia, starting King of Peace in Kingsland, before joining the diocesan staff in 2010 as the Canon to the Ordinary.



    The opposite of a positive is always a negative. When the positive is stated it is understood that absent the positive, that the negative occurs or has occurred. Example: If a person is alive, that is a positive. The negative is the opposite, which is, a person is dead.

    Matthew 24:11-13.....13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

    The positive stated: He who endures will be saved.
    The negative implied: He who does not endure will not be saved.

    Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

    The positive stated: He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved.
    The negative axiom: He who has not been baptized will not be saved.

    Luke 7:50 And He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

    The positive stated: Her faith saved her.
    The negative inference: Without faith she would not have been saved.

    Romans 9:27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, "Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sands of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved;

    The positive stated: A remnant of Israel will be saved.
    The negative understanding: The whole of Israel will not be saved.

    John 10:9 I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

    The positive stated: If anyone enters through Jesus he will be saved.
    The negative implication: By not entering through Jesus you will remain unsaved.

    Acts 2:41,47 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there added about three thousand souls. 47...And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

    The positive stated: The Lord was adding the saved to His church. (The saved were those who believed the gospel and were baptized.)
    The negative implication: Those who did not believe Peter's message and were not
    baptized, were not saved, and they were not added to the church.

    Romans 10:13 for "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved."

    The positive: If you recognize the authority of the Lord and appeal to His authority you will be saved.
    The negative implication: If you deny the authority of the Lord, and do not call on Him, you will be lost.

    1 Peter 3:20-21...safely through water. 21 Corresponding to that , baptism now saves you---not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience---through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    The positive: Baptism saves you.
    The negative axiom: Those who are not baptized remain unsaved.


    Revelation 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

    The positive stated: Remain faithful in order to receive the crown of life.
    The implied negative : If you do not remain faithful you will not receive the crown of life.