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Epiphany 4 | Ordinary Time 4, Cycle C (2016)

God calls and equips. This is another Sunday devoted to the Christian life (Sanctification and Social Ethics) but understood as the work of God (Providence, Predestination, and Justification by Grace).

Psalm 71:1-6
This is an aged worshiper’s (v. 9) prayer/lament for deliverance from personal enemies. The psalmist claims to take refuge in Yahweh, urging that we never be put to shame (v. 1). He pleads that in the Lord’s righteousness [tsedeq] the psalmist be delivered and saved [yasha] (v. 2). He petitions that Yahweh would be a rock of refuge, a strong fortress [metsudah] to save him (v. 3). Although in its original Hebraic context this could connote legal, judgmental actions on the Lord’s part or a legalism, most Old Testament scholars note that God’s righteousness is not in any way punitive, but more about relationship. Indeed, it has to do with God’s loyalty to his covenant in saving us and even at times later in the Old Testament era the righteousness of God construed as something bestowed on the faithful (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 373, 376ff) in a manner not unlike what Paul says happens to Christians in Christ (Romans 3:21-26). The psalmist next pleads for rescue from the hand of the wicked and the unjust (v. 4). It is noted that the Lord is his hope [tiqvah] and trust since youth (v. 5). He has leaned on him since birth for the Lord took him from his mother’s womb (v. 6).

Application: Sermons on this text might focus on aging with dignity by the grace of God (Sanctification) or that God has called us since our youth, but equips us to cope with injustice and to hope (Providence, Predestination, Sanctification, Eschatology).

Jeremiah 1:4-10
This text is located in a Book of Prophecies of the late-seventh/early-sixth centuries BC prophet of Judah. It was dictated to his aide Baruch. The prophet frequently offers criticism of David’s heirs and the temple leadership, giving more attention to the Sinai Covenant (to ways of serving Yahweh which pre-dated the temple cult established by David). This may be related to the fact that Jeremiah was an ancestor of one of David’s high priests, Abiathar, who lost control of the temple and was finally banished (2 Samuel 20:25; 1 Kings 2:26-27).

This lesson is part of the story of Jeremiah’s call. God’s Word comes to inform the prophet that before he was formed in the womb and born, Yahweh knew [yada] him and consecrated him to be a prophet (vv. 4-5). Jeremiah responds by pointing out his youth and ineffectiveness as a speaker (v. 6). Yahweh responds with the assurance that he will do the sending and speaking for Jeremiah (v. 7). The prophet has nothing to fear (v. 8). Yahweh then touches Jeremiah’s mouth, puts his words in the prophet’s mouth, and appoints him over the nations to pluck up, pull down, to destroy [abad], and to build [bannah] (vv. 9-10).

Application: This text should lead to sermons proclaiming that God has called us to serve him and that no one can avoid this call and God’s claim (Justification by Grace, Predestination, Sanctification).

1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Again we read a lesson is taken from one of Paul’s authentic letters, written from Ephesus prior to his Epistle to the Romans, to a church he had established (Acts 18:1-11). Relations had become strained with the church. The letter aims to address doctrinal and ethical problems disturbing the Corinthian church. This lesson is his famed discourse on love.

The lesson must be understood in light of the preceding discourse on spiritual gifts (12:1-11). The text refers to agape love, a love given by God or to the love of God, not to natural human love.

Mere speaking in tongues [glossa] without love is said to be but a noisy gong (v. 1). Prophetic power and faith without love render one nothing (v. 2). Likewise, generosity and martyrdom (as some ancient texts refer to the body being buried) without love gains nothing (v. 3). The virtues of love are extolled — patience, kindness, humility, not being irritable, hoping and enduring all things (vv. 4-8a). It is noted that prophecy [propheteia], tongues, knowledge [gnosis] end (v. 8b). For they are only partial (vv. 9-10). Paul notes that ways of childhood are put aside in adulthood (v. 11). Now we see only dimly as in a mirror, but at the end we will know fact-to-face, know fully (v. 12). For now, faith [pistis], hope [elpis], and love abide, but love is the greatest (v. 13).

Application: This text invites sermons about God’s love which makes us love (Justification by Grace and Sanctification with good works as spontaneous).

Luke 4:21-30
We return again to this first installment of a two-part history of the church traditionally attributed to Luke, a physician and Gentile associate of Paul (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24). Along with Acts, the author’s intention was to stress the universal mission of the Church (Acts 1:8). This is a story of Jesus enduring rejection in his hometown. The other Synoptic Gospels include this account, though verses 23-25 in this text have no equivalent in the parallels. Also while the people’s rejection of Jesus entailed that Jesus did no mighty work among them (Mark 6:5-6; Matthew 13:58), this is not the case in Luke.

The story begins following an address by Jesus in the synagogue (vv. 16-20). He claimed his proclamation fulfilled [pleroo] Hebrew Scripture [graphe] (v. 21). It is reported that all spoke well of him, noting he was Joseph’s son (vv. 21-22). The Lord responds claiming defensively that some might say he should heal himself and that he should do in his hometown [patridi, literally “native-place”] what he had done in Capernaum (v. 23). No surprise, he adds, since prophets are not accepted in their hometowns (v. 24). Jesus then proceeds to provide examples in his own defense of instances in the periods of Elijah and Elisha when healings and miracles were not done, except for a Syrian (a Gentile) (1 Kings 17:1, 8-16; 18:1; 2 Kings 5:1-14) (vv. 25-27). Hearing this proclamation, the crowd in the synagogue was enraged and drove Jesus out of town. He escapes and leaves on his own terms, a sign pointing to his mission in Jerusalem (vv. 28-30).

Application: This text is about Jesus and so God being on the side of the “other” (those not like us). Justification by Grace and Social Ethics are the core issues, but so is Sin insofar as sermons might examine how like in Capernaum we challenge Jesus’ agenda.

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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