Keyword Search

  • Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company
    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

Epiphany 4 | Ordinary Time 4, Cycle C

The connection is rather tenuous. Nevertheless, there is a point of contact in all four of these texts in the concept of prophetic powers. In Psalm 71 an old man in distress relies on the Lord to continue the prophetic powers of inspiration that the Lord has given to him since the time of his birth. In the call story in Jeremiah 1:4-10 prophetic powers are said to have been virtually forced upon the reluctant young man Jeremiah. He is said to have been known, consecrated, and appointed to be a prophet even before he had been born. For the Apostle Paul, prophetic powers, important as they are, are of no avail unless they are accompanied by God’s kind of self-giving love. In the Lukan writer’s story about Jesus in his hometown, prophetic powers are said to have gone unrecognized not only at the time of Elijah and Elisha, but also in Jesus himself. As we read and use these texts, we are called to consider the concept of prophetic powers in our own lives and in our own ministries.

Psalm 71:1-6

This psalm is the lament of an old man who asks the Lord for deliverance from personal enemies. Although there is no specific reference to the expression of prophetic powers in the old man, his need for deliverance from personal enemies is characteristic of any person who is given and demonstrates prophetic powers. There is an important connection with the Jeremiah 1:4-10 call story in the psalmist’s claim to have been taken from his mother’s womb by the Lord. The psalm is noteworthy for its vivid images and for its emphasis on proclamation of the mighty deeds of the Lord. These are exactly what is typically associated with the exercise of prophetic powers.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

The two principal purposes of a prophetic call story are to establish the credentials of the prophet and to indicate the major themes of the prophet’s life and message. Particularly significant in this Jeremiah call story is its emphasis on the power of the prophetic word over the nations. We should perhaps tie this to the concern for the nations implied in the Luke 4:21-30 account. In Jeremiah 1:17-19 it is said that Jeremiah will be given prophetic powers to stand up against the powers and people of his own land. Jeremiah is given no choice; he is impelled by the Lord into his life situation. Nevertheless, there is a promise that ultimately the Lord will deliver him.

Perhaps as we ponder our own God-given call and responsibilities as we prepare for the worship service next Sunday, we should think more about our own personal call story in relation to the principal motifs of our particular ministry. To what themes are we driven by the Lord? Into what areas of ministry are we impelled? How does the Lord validate our credentials in these areas of ministry? When our credentials are challenged in these areas, what is our defense? What can we say about our call from the Lord? How can our sharing of our call from the Lord help other people to recognize and to accept their call from the Lord?

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

The individual members of the “Body of Christ” have various and diverse charismata (spiritual gifts). None of the members are able to perform the functions of all of the others. All are urged, however, to desire the higher gifts and to follow the way that Paul will show, the way of agape-type love, God’s kind of love, revealed by God through Jesus the Christ and through Paul. While Jesus and Paul are our most important role models for Christian ministry, we also as inspired individuals within the Church are called to be reflective role models to demonstrate and to proclaim the same kind of self-giving love that Jesus and Paul exemplified. This call to reflect God’s kind of self-giving love is experienced not merely to those who are clergy. It comes to all of us.

Luke 4:21-30

This is the rejection portion of the acclaim and rejection drama composed by the Lukan writer to present the principal motifs of the Third Gospel and of Acts. The violent reaction of the men of the synagogue in Jesus’ hometown is almost certainly somewhat of an exaggeration and of an anachronism. This story about the vicious wrath of all of the men of the synagogue and their abortive attempts to lynch and to kill Jesus (and on the Sabbath!) is much more likely a Lukan composition late in the first century CE than it is the reporting of an historical occurrence from the time of the Jesus of history. After the atrocities committed by Christians against Jews during the Christian Crusades, after the abuse and execution of Jews ordered by the Christian Inquisition courts, after the horrendous pogroms in Eastern Europe during which over a period of several centuries more than six million Jews were killed, and after the death of an additional more than six million Jews in lands dominated by Christians during the Holocaust, as inspired people within the Church today it is unconscionable for us to include Luke 4:28-30 in our lectionaries and to read these three verses during our worship services.

Those who included Luke 4:28-30 in the Roman Catholic three year lectionary commissioned by Vatican II and used within the Lutheran and Common lectionaries derived from the Roman Catholic lectionary, and those who continued to include verses 28-30 in The Revised Common Lectionary were inexcusably insensitive. Those during the first few centuries of the early Church who through usage and decree accepted Luke 4:28-30 and similar materials into the New Testament canon were callous. The Lukan writer who composed Luke 4:28-30 was guided by that writer’s own anti-Jewish bias and prejudice and as a result perpetrated much greater violence against the Jesus of history than did the fictitious people of the synagogue in Nazareth created to be characters in this story. As inspired people in the Church today, we must not perpetuate the destructive polemic of texts such as Luke 4:28-30 by continuing to include them in our lectionary. We are well aware that when we speak out against the reading of texts such as Luke 4:28-30 within our congregations we will be attacked and condemned by well-meaning traditionalists within the Church who will say that we must not object to these verses, because what is written in Luke 4:28-30 “is what those Jews did to our Jesus.” We are fully aware that we are speaking against material that has been perceived as a part of the “Word of God” within our Christian tradition for many centuries.

Nevertheless, we speak because, like Jeremiah, we are called and compelled by God to do so; we cannot be silent. We speak for the sake of our children and for the sake of the children of others. We cannot continue to be silent bystanders and spectators. We, along with the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, consider the Word of God to be living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing to the every essence of our being. The Word of God is an excellent sword, but we are aware that there are serious “nicks” in that sword. We must, therefore, appeal beyond canonical scripture and tradition directly to God. We must appeal because we believe in God, not in the Bible as if it were God, and not in the Church as if it were God, and because we perceive that God is “a consuming fire” to whom we are ultimately accountable.

As inspired people, we have no power of our own. We are captive to the unwanted gift of prophetic powers, the “red thread” that runs through the four texts chosen for this day. May these prophetic powers be accompanied by what the Apostle Paul called “God’s kind of self-giving love!” (For a much more extensive rationale for the necessity of our repudiation of the content of Luke 4:28-30 and similar texts, see my Mature Christianity: The Recognition and Repudiation of the Anti-Jewish Polemic of the New Testament (Susquehanna University Press, 1985), or my Mature Christianity in the 21st Century: The Recognition and Repudiation of the Anti-Jewish Polemic of the New Testament (New York: Crossroad, 1994). (For an extensive article in which The Revised Common Lectionary: The Consultation on Common Texts and other lectionaries are analyzed regarding anti-Jewish polemic in their selections, see my “Removing Anti-Jewish Polemic from our Christian Lectionaries: A Proposal” at Select “English,” “Articles,” and “Beck, Norman A.”).

Leave a Reply

  • Get Your FREE 30-day Trial Subscription to SermonSuite NOW!
    Chris Keating
    The Double-Dog Dare Days of August
    August’s lazy, hazy dog days quickly became a deadly double-dog dare contest between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, the supreme leader of North Korea. Both nations have been at odds with each other for nearly 70 years. During his working golf vacation in New Jersey last week, President Trump responded to North Korea’s rhetorical sword-rattling by launching a verbal preemptive strike of his own.
         Call it the Bedminster bombast, or the putt that rocked Pyongyang. But the duel between the two countries is more than fodder for late-night comedians. It’s a deadly standoff with history-changing repercussions.
         There is no vacation from matters of national security, or the orations of war. Indeed, much of the war of words between Washington and North Korea seems to confirm Jesus’ counsel in Matthew: “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” The contrasts between these barbed exchanges and the biblical understanding of peacemaking offers an intriguing opportunity to hear Jesus’ words in a world filled with double-dog (and even triple-dog) dares....more
    Feeding The 5,000
    The assigned Gospel text for this week skips over a couple of sections in Matthew's story. Matthew 14:34-36 cites Jesus' journey to Gennesaret. The crowds of people recognized him immediately and all of the sick came to him for healing. Just a touch of Jesus' garment brought healing to many. The crowd in Gennesaret recognized Jesus. They came to him in their need....more
    Wayne Brouwer
    Religious balkanization
    One dimension of religious life we have in common across faith traditions and denominational lines is the incessant divisiveness that split our seemingly monolithic communities into dozens of similar yet tenaciously varied subgroups. A Jewish professor of psychology said of his tradition, "If there are ten Jewish males in a city we create a synagogue. If there are eleven Jewish males we start thinking about creating a competing synagogue."...more
    C. David McKirachan
    Jesus Is Coming, Look Busy
    Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
    I had a parishioner who would walk out of the sanctuary if he saw a djembe (African drum) out in front to be used in worship.  I asked him about it, in a wonderfully pastoral manner, and he told me that things like that didn’t belong in worship.  I said that it was in the bible to praise God with pipes and drums (I think it is).  He told me he didn’t care what the Bible said, he knew where that thing came from and he wouldn’t have it.  I asked him why things from Africa would bother him.  He told me that he knew I was liberal but that didn’t mean he had to be.  I agreed with him but cautioned him that racism was probably one of the worst examples of evil in our world and I thought he should consider what Christ would think of that.  He asked me who paid my salary, Christ or good Americans....more
    Janice Scott
    No Strings Attached
    In today's gospel reading, Jesus seemed reluctant to heal the Canaanite woman's daughter. He told her that he wasn't sent to help foreigners, but only his own people, the Chosen Race. The words sound unnecessarily harsh, but perhaps this is an interpretation unique to Matthew, for this story only appears in Matthew's gospel, which was written for Jews....more
    Arley K. Fadness
    Great Faith
    Object: Hula Hoop or circle made out of ribbon, twine or rope
    What an amazing morning to come to church today. I am so glad to see you and talk to you about a wonderful story from the bible. Let me begin by showing you this circle. Now let's get into this circle. (Physically, all move into the circle) It's fun for us all to be together in this circle. We don't want anyone to be left out. To be left out is to be sad. To be kept out is even more sad and painful....more

Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen