Sermon: Welcome to The Family

We are simultaneously part of many different families. Some of them endure for generations, others exist only for a particular moment in time. At their best, they give our lives shape, meaning and purpose; at their worst, they drag us down into a pit of despair.

The Judean Desert near the Dead Sea

My Grandpa loved life, loved his family, and loved making others laugh. I remember sitting with him in the kitchen: he’d smile a big broad smile, and then let his upper denture drop – “Clunk.” We kids would respond with peals of delighted laughter. Grandma, sitting across the table, would inevitably say: “O, Earl!” – Which only provoked more laughter. They were both lovely people, and were both quite strong and wonderful characters.

We all have such “characters” in our families: some eccentric, some difficult, some amusing or endearing, sometimes a combination of all three! They are people who don’t mind living life a bit off from the norm. In fact, at least in my own experience, these same relatives are often seen as embodying a set of qualities – or oddities – that “run in the family” – traits that are usually good (I hope), but sometimes not. They might include patterns of behavior; health issues; physical traits and gifts; ties to a particular place, time or nationality, or a particular legacy, among other things. But, they identify us as “us”: they help us see how and why our family came to be what it is, what it stands for, and why we are who we are.

We are simultaneously part of many different families: our family of origin, the family we marry into, the family we create with our spouse, our church family, our work and school families. Some of these families endure for generations, others exist only for a particular moment in time. But, they all provide us with an identity, and a reason for being who and what we are. At their best, they give our lives shape, meaning and purpose; at their worst, they drag us down into a pit of despair.

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A Message for All Ages: “The Codex”

By the second century, the codex was the preferred format for preserving and transporting the written word among Christians evangelists and scholars, and it is thought that the spread of Christianity both drove, and was facilitated by, the adoption of the codex in place of scrolls.

codex sinaiticus St Catherine's
The Codex Siniaticus is the oldest known complete text of the Bible, from ca. 350 AD. This copy was discovered in 1844 at St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai (hence its name).

A short history of the codex and why it was so important to the development and spread of Christianity.  Portions of this outline were presented in an informal “Message for All Ages” at ARK Community Church in Dalton, MA; Feb 1, 2016.

Prior to the first century CE (or so), nearly all written documents were in the form of single sheets or scrolls.

Because of the difficulty of unrolling scrolls to find particular passages and then having to roll them up again, longer books were often broken up into multiple scrolls. You can see this even today in the segmentation of 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles in the Hebrew Scriptures, both of which were originally single continuous texts.

And, because of the difficulty of managing and storing scrolls, very short books were often collated together into a single scroll.  For instance, the 12 minor Hebrew prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Job, Malachi, etc.), were often kept together in one or two scrolls.

The word “Codex” is from the Latin word for “wood” or “block” and is the technical term for a folio of pages stitched together.  In other words, a book.  The codex was developed by the Romans shortly before the time of Christ, Julius Ceasar may have been the first prominent Roman to use them.

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Sermon: It Didn’t Go So Well

Love is not a wimpy or sentimental emotion; but a passionate, fierce action. … Such Love requires us to participate in the life of the person in front of us. It makes us see that it isn’t all about us or our agendas. … Jesus will always confound our expectations because he isn’t here to meet our expectations, but rather to help us achieve all that God hopes for us.

Christ Teaching in the Synagogue at Nazareth by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, 1658

This morning’s gospel reading focuses on the most extensive narrative we have of Jesus in a Synagogue; and, it didn’t go so well! Or did it?

Please pray with me… Lord, let it be your voice that speaks through my mouth, and let our hearts and minds be open and receptive to hearing the Word & Mission you have for us here today. Amen.

Chapter 4 of the Gospel of Luke narrates the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. At the start of this morning’s reading, we are told that “filled with the power of the Spirit,” Jesus ministers in Galilee and eventually returns to the village where he grew up.

People throughout Galilee are saying he is the first true prophet in centuries, and perhaps more than that. But for those in Nazareth, he’s more: he is their celebrity – their hometown hero. Can you imagine? Such an important person, from a tiny, obscure village: they know him! …So exciting! The community was abuzz with rumors and speculation, hopes for a bright future to be brought about through the glory of their native son.

But some are filled with doubt: they watched him grow up. They know him as the son of Joseph the Carpenter. They know Jesus and his family all too well.

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