Proper 7 | Ordinary Time 12 | Pentecost 5, Cycle C
Sunday between June 19 and 25 inclusive (if after Trinity Sunday)
Perhaps the closest we can come to identifying a unifying theme within this series of texts is to see that in each of them there is either an expectation of a new revelation from God or a declaration of it. In each instance, the new revelation will be redemptive.
Psalm 42 and 43
These two psalms are linked together in this selection because they appear actually to be one psalm. The beautiful poetic expression of desire for a revelation and redemption from God with which Psalm 42 begins endears this psalm to each of us. We long for redemption from God just as a deer searches for flowing streams of fresh water to drink. We too seek to come to God and to be strengthened and refreshed as we as Christian people worship the Lord God.
The psalmist expects a revelation of God’s saving grace and receives it. With this assurance, the psalmist calls upon the congregation and then all of the families of the nations to worship the Lord God. Even those who are in their graves will bow down to the Lord, and in the future the revelation of deliverance from God shall be proclaimed even to newly born babies.
1 Kings 19:1-4 (5-7) 8-15a
When Elijah flees in despair from the threats of Queen Jezebel and asks God to take his life, God reveals God’s self to him at Mount Horeb. The revelation comes not in the mighty gusting wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the burning fire, but in the awesome silence that follows these powerful displays of force in nature. During the silence nothing will hinder or compete with the revelation of God. The great commission revealed to Elijah surprisingly is not included in this selection. That will be given in the continued reading assigned to the following weekend service.
Here God is said to have revealed God’s self even when the people of God had not asked for it. Even though the punishment of God has come upon the rebellious people, a remnant will be saved. How is this applicable also in our lives, especially within the Church?
We continue to be amazed Paul wrote that the Torah was our babysitter until the time when faith in Jesus as the Messiah would be possible, particularly when we recognize that what he was referring to as the Torah was the most significant portion of the written Word of God, the Bible as Paul knew it! Although some of the later Pauline editors, redactors, and writers were what we today know as biblical literalists (the writer of 1 Timothy 2:11-15, for example), Paul himself was far from that. Paul went even farther in stating in 2 Corinthians 3:6 that the written Word (the Bible as he knew it) kills, but the Spirit of God gives life. In addition, he wrote in Romans 7:6 that we serve not under the old written Word (the Bible as Paul knew it) but under the new revelation of the Spirit of God.
Apparently Paul was much more radical in his views about Scripture and new revelation than we and most people within the Church today have realized. Paul proclaimed something that he recognized to be new, a revelation of Jesus as the Christ far more powerful than the Bible of that time. In that new revelation there were to be no distinctions between those who were of Jewish background as opposed to those who were not of Jewish background, between slaves and those who were not slaves, and between men and women. Through faith in Jesus Christ his hearers were all to be considered to be people of God, with no one to claim to be or to be acclaimed to be superior to any other person.
What are our responsibilities today in light of this? Certainly we should not claim a revelation of Christ more powerful than that written within the Newer Testament, although perhaps at times we must claim a revelation of Christ that is equal to something that is within the biblical account and stand in judgment over it just as it stands in judgment over us. We do this through interpretation, through sensitive translations, and through selective usage of texts, just as Christians have done throughout the history of the Church. If we think that we and others throughout the history of the Church have not done this and that we should not do this, we are deluding ourselves. Even the most rigid biblical literalists among us do some of this. It is through these means that the Word of God remains living, active, and dynamic, as the Spirit of God guides us and continues to reveal the will of God to us.
This text and its Synoptic parallels are exceedingly interesting in terms of the developing Christology of the early followers of Jesus and in terms of the theology of the cross. We note that Mark has the great Christological confession of faith occur in the area of the villages of Caesarea Philippi, perhaps one of the areas in which members of the Markan community were awaiting the parousia of Jesus during the first years of the Jewish revolt, in 66-67 CE. The Matthean redactors retained this geographical reference, but the Lukan writer dropped it. In most other respects, the Lukan writer followed the Markan account closely in this text, except for not using Jesus’ rebuke of Peter, Jesus’ labeling Peter as a representative of Satan.
We can now say that the Jesus of history was probably acclaimed as a Jewish Messiah by many of the Jews who followed and identified with him, because he was providing a message and an example of hope to his oppressed fellow Jewish people. It was as a Jewish Messiah (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews) that he was crucified by the Romans, not as a Christian Messiah. He became the Christian Messiah only gradually as a new and separate Christian religion was developed. Perceived as the Risen Christ, he could not be the Christian Messiah until there was a Christian community of faith, and he will be the Christian Messiah as long as there will be a Christian community of faith.
As Christians, we are called to follow and to worship Jesus as the Christian Messiah. That means taking up our cross (giving hope to our fellow oppressed people of our time, just as the Jesus of history did during his time) and, if necessary, losing our life for his sake. Galatians 3:23-29 and Luke 8:26-39 are radical texts. Let us proclaim them as radicals today!