June 23, 2019
Like you, I ponder the distinctions, the divisions, the separations in our culture and communities. I wonder: is this new, more extreme or has it always been so?  Maybe.  The prayer of the day, old in substance, modern in language, includes a petition to ‘mend our communities’.  Can we have an ‘amen’ to that?
I grew up on block where my best friends were an Italian Roman Catholic kid (Nicolas Attivo) and an Irish Roman Catholic kid (Patrick Hogue). I played on sports teams with diverse ethnicities, races, and creeds.  I went to a couple of Bar Mitzvahs when invited by friends. Occasionally,  I even went to confession on Friday afternoons, riding bikes together with those friends to Sacred Heart church, and then waiting until they came back out.  
In recent times we have seen violent acts against people in worship: Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus.  Mend our communities.
The forces that wound, divide, and negate people in our communities are demonic, even ‘legion’, as we hear in the Gospel.  Jesus stands – and acts – against such forces that separate and divide, isolate and exclude. 
Paul declares in his letter to the Galatians that when they have become a child of God, that is their primary identity.  They are no longer to divide themselves by other (lesser?) identifications like nationality, gender, race, status, or class. 
 Such mending comes through God’s lead and through our response to reflect God’s will in our communities.
 Our communities are observing high school graduations.  We salute Nick Wight as he earns his diploma from Ithaca High School and heads onto college in the Fall. Nick has served on the church council this year and as an acolyte for many years.    
O Lord God, we bring before you the cries of a sorrowing world. In your mercy set us free from the chains that bind us, and defend us from everything that is evil, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.     Amen.
Isaiah 65: 1-9
            Psalm 22: 19-28
Galatians 3: 23-29
Luke 8: 26-39
SERMON: “Pigs Overboard”
WORD OF THE WEEK  - from Luke 8
32Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
FIRST LESSON from Isaiah 65: 1-9
1I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask,
  to be found by those who did not seek me.
 I said, “Here I am, here I am,”
  to a nation that did not call on my name.
 2I held out my hands all day long
  to a rebellious people,
 who walk in a way that is not good,
  following their own devices;
 3a people who provoke me
  to my face continually,
 sacrificing in gardens
  and offering incense on bricks;
 4who sit inside tombs,
  and spend the night in secret places;
 who eat swine’s flesh,
  with broth of abominable things in their vessels;
 5who say, “Keep to yourself,
  do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.”
 These are a smoke in my nostrils,
  a fire that burns all day long.
 6See, it is written before me:
  I will not keep silent, but I will repay;
 I will indeed repay into their laps
  7their iniquities and their ancestors’ iniquities together,
 says the Lord;
 because they offered incense on the mountains
  and reviled me on the hills,
 I will measure into their laps
  full payment for their actions.
 8Thus says the Lord:
 As the wine is found in the cluster,
  and they say, “Do not destroy it,
  for there is a blessing in it,”
 so I will do for my servants’ sake,
  and not destroy them all.
 9I will bring forth descendants from Jacob,
  and from Judah inheritors of my mountains;
 my chosen shall inherit it,
  and my servants shall settle there.
SECOND LESSON from Galatians 3: 23-39

23Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

THE HOLY GOSPEL according to Luke 8: 26-39

26Then [Jesus and his disciples] arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”—29for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

  32Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

  34When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.





June 30, 2019
At the beginning and at the end of martial arts classes, we always did 5-10 minutes of stretching. The purpose was to warm up and/or stretch out muscles, joints and tendons gently in order to prevent injury and to improve range of motion.  Stretching is good.
The Mayo Clinic’s website advises: “If you have a problem area or the stretch is particularly helpful for pain or discomfort, you may benefit from repeated stretching.”
This physical routine may serve as a paradigm for our faith lives also: we may benefit from repeated stretching.  We encounter problem areas or experience discomfort when we encounter a different way, person, thought, or belief.  Might we be invited to stretch first and last, in order to increase our flexibility and to prevent injury to the faith, to others, and to ourselves?
This week’s first lesson presents the great prophet Elijah using a stretching technique to deal with a problem area: the death of a child.  Such stretching was precursor to new life for the child.
The Hebrew word translated as ‘stretch’ means to measure, as with a ruler.  Length. Distance.  Take the measure.  Give a measure.     Elijah ‘measured’ the threat of death and met it with an abundant ‘measure’ of life from God.  Life out-measured death.
I hear this as similar to the Greek and Latin words we translate as ‘canon’.  Such a ‘canon’ is a rod, a measuring stick.   We use this word to refer to the Bible as the measuring standard for understanding and proclaiming God’s Word and will.
The Hebrew in the Elijah story can also mean to survey or to determine the proportion.  It can mean to extend or to be extended.  Mmmm.  Yes.  To be stretched is to be extended.  God extends us from our comfort zone, all for the sake of measuring out and sharing God’s gracious love, peace and justice with other people.  How do we have to stretch to reach people with God’s love?
If we don’t remember to stretch on our own, God promises to warm us up and cool us down with some stretching for the sake of the Kingdom.

Sovereign God, ruler of all hearts, you call us to obey you, and you favor us with true freedom. Keep us faithful to the ways of your Son, that leaving behind all that hinders us, we may steadfastly follow your paths, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21
            Psalm 16
Galatians 5:1, 13-25

Luke 9:51-62

SERMON: “The Yokes of Slavery”
WORD OF THE WEEK – from Galatians 5
1For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

13For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

FIRST LESSON from 1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21
Then the LORD said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place."

            19So he set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him. 20He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, "Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you." Then Elijah said to him, "Go back again; for what have I done to you?" 21He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.

SECOND LESSON from Galatians 5:1, 13-25
For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
            13For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 15If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
            16Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
            22By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
THE HOLY GOSPEL according to Luke 9:51-62
When the days drew near for [Jesus] to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" 55But he turned and rebuked them. 56Then they went on to another village.

            57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." 58And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." 59To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." 60But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." 61Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." 62Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."


July 7, 2019

The July 4th holiday is about independence, right?  This mid-summer holiday is known as Independence Day.

While we observe some independence in one way, we also embody – acknowledge and give thanks for -- some inter-dependence in our lives, families, and communities.

The Continental Congress debated the question of independence and the implications of such independence, both for each colony and for the colonies together. But the colonies struggled to work together; how were they also interdependent upon one another in their anticipated independence?

What is the leading word in our interdependence?  Perhaps, it is the call of being a good neighbor.

In the Gospel appointed for this Sunday, Jesus suggests that the first word of good neighbors is a word of peace.  That is a very good place to start.  Such peace, in a biblical sense, is more than the absence of hostilities.  Such peace is preferable to hostilities, of course, but it does not go far enough.

Both the Hebrew and the Greek words translated into English as ‘peace’ are about wholeness, completeness.  To be  whole we need to be connected with others.  From a faith perspective one of those others is God, another is a neighbor, a family, a community. The very Body of Christ.

As we observe this Independence Day with some grilling, some boating, some beverages, some campfires and/or fireworks, let us give thanks for the wonderful community of connections that leads us to do all these things – together.  We can give thanks for the people and the place where we got the grilling supplies, for the people who made the boat,  for the people who cut the wood, for the people . . . . .with whom we are connected and interdependent.

And let us reflect on the first word we speak or embody to other people. Let it be a word of peace that shows we are together as a larger community.    

At the 9:30 am service this Sunday, July 7, we will celebrate both sacraments.  Charlotte Tully will receive the sacrament of Holy Baptism.  And all are welcome to share in the Lord’s Table for the sacrament of Holy Communion.


O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, you are the city that shelters us, the mother who comforts us. With your Spirit accompany us on our life's journey, that we may spread your peace throughout the world, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Isaiah 66:10-14
  Psalm 66:1-9
Galatians 6:[1-6] 7-16

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20


SERMON: “Enter in Peace”

WORD OF THE WEEK – from Luke 10
5Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house!' 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.


FIRST LESSON from Isaiah 66:10-14
Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,
            all you who love her;
rejoice with her in joy,
            all you who mourn over her--
11that you may nurse and be satisfied
            from her consoling breast;
that you may drink deeply with delight
            from her glorious bosom.
12For thus says the LORD:
I will extend prosperity to her like a river,
            and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse and be carried on her arm,
            and dandled on her knees.
13As a mother comforts her child,
            so I will comfort you;
            you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
14You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;
            your bodies shall flourish like the grass;
and it shall be known that the hand of the LORD is with his servants,
            and his indignation is against his enemies.


SECOND LESSON from Galatians 6: [1-6] 7-16

[My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. 2Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 4All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor's work, will become a cause for pride. 5For all must carry their own loads. 6Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.]

            7Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

            11See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! 12It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised--only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. 14May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! 16As for those who will follow this rule--peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

THE HOLY GOSPEL according to Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house!' 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11'Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.' "
            16"Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me."

            17The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!" 18He said to them, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."





July 14, 2019

Jesus worked with people marginalized by communities and society.  Jesus worked with people who were marginalized and excluded by the religious community. 

Jesus was himself marginalized by many communities.  He experienced being placed on the edge if not outside. Even by his own hometown.  Even by his own home ‘church’. 

He existed ‘between’.  Sociologist call such ‘between’ space liminality. The space between first and second base when you are running. Both vulnerable and hopeful.

The ‘law’ of interstice declares that some potentials are realized only in the in-between spaces.

This week’s appointed gospel lesson illustrates the point.  Two weeks ago we read the end of Luke 9: going through Samaria,  Jesus is rejected by people because he had set his face to go to Jerusalem.  They didn’t know or understand he was going to Jerusalem to die – for them, among others.  They knew he thought Jerusalem was important, perhaps more important than towns in their country, perhaps more important than their country’s cultic centers.  That is akin to someone saying they won’t perform in Philly because NYC is the big time and that is where they are going.  The Philly fans are hurt and angry.

The Samaritan were offended because they thought Jesus was big-timing them.  They felt belittled, like marginalized outcasts.  

The disciples are offended by the Samaritans taking offense at Jesus.  Like some scene from Game of Thrones, they want to call down fire from heaven upon the offensive offenders.  Jesus puts a stop to the disciples thoughts – and actions. 

In the very next chapter of Luke Jesus is approached by a lawyer who tests Jesus’ orthodoxy.  The lawyer asks a very self-centered, self-focused, self-absorbed question and he asks it badly or at least in a way that does not understand the Jesus way.  Today his question might be equivalent to: “how can I save myself?” or “what must I do to get myself saved?”

Jesus asks: “what system you are operating under?  What are the guidelines?”  The lawyer replies his commanded direction is to love God and to love neighbor.  That’ll serve well, says Jesus.  But the lawyer wants to limit his liability and insure his own outcome.  So he asks who his neighbor is--i.e., how far does his responsibility extend?

In response Jesus tells the story we know as the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Good?  And Samaritan?  In the same story after what Jesus and the disciples had just come through?  What?  The very people who had marginalized and rejected this Jesus are the very people Jesus makes into the hero of the parable. This must have doubly stung the disciples ears.  They wanted to call down a fire-breathing dragon on such people; now Jesus lifts them up.  What?

The call of any faith community is to be good neighbors.  Are our neighbors just the people next door? The people who look like us?  The people in a similar class as us?  Jesus challenges not only the seeker but also those following him to see larger and to show mercy regardless.  To our student neighbors.  To our merchant neighbors.  To our Jewish neighbors.  To our Muslim neighbors.  To our LGBTQ+ neighbors.  To our Asian neighbors.  To our homeless neighbors.  To our military service neighbors.  To our . . . . . . . . .

The point of this Christian faith, the way of Jesus, is not focused on saving oneself, but rather in showing God’s mercy to the world of neighbors – even those who reject Jesus. 

This will be Pastor Bair’s last service as pastor of St. Luke, where he has served since May 1988.  PB’s retirement begins Monday, July 15.  After the 9:30 am service, a reception will be held to say good-bye’s.

O Lord God, your mercy delights us, and the world longs for your loving care. Hear the cries of everyone in need, and turn our hearts to love our neighbors with the love of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.
Deuteronomy 30:9-14
            Psalm 25:1-10
Colossians 1:1-14
Luke 10:25-37
SERMON:  “Being Neighborly”
WORD OF THE WEEK – from Luke 10
36"Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" 37He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."


FIRST LESSON from Deuteronomy 30:9-14
The LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors, 10when you obey the LORD your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

            11Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. 12It is not in heaven, that you should say, "Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?" 13Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, "Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?" 14No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

SECOND LESSON from Colossians 1:1-14
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
            2To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae:
            Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
            3In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel 6that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. 7This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
            9For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
THE HOLY GOSPEL according to Luke 10:25-37
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 26He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" 27He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." 28And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live."
            29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 30Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, 'Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.'
            36"Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" 37He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."