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Proper 12 | Ordinary Time 17 | Pentecost 10, Cycle C (2016)

God will never abandon us. This theme will lead to sermons on Social Ethics (God’s concern for the lowly) and Justification by Grace, with attention to how we live (Sanctification and Sin).

Psalm 85
This psalm is a prayer for deliverance from national adversity. It is a Korah Psalm, a genre of psalms that are songs of a congregational type. The Korahites were a group of temple singers (2 Chronicles 20:19) who may have assembled several psalms, including this one. It begins with a reference to God’s favor to his land and its people, and how he cared for them and forgave them (taken away their iniquity) in the past (vv. 1-3). This could be taken as a Messianic Prophecy, describing all Christ will do. Petitions for deliverance and mercy [chesed] along with others that Elohim would revive [chayah] are offered in verses 4-7. The bulk of the song includes an oracle of assurance likely delivered by a priest. Yahweh Elohim will speak peace [shalom] to his people, salvation [yesha, safety or ease] is at hand. Love/Mercy and faithfulness will meet, righteousness [tsedeq] and peace [shalom] will kiss each other, and Yahweh will give what is good [tob] (vv. 8-13). Messages of forgiveness (vv. 2-3) and salvation (v. 9) are delivered.

Application: The psalm encourages sermons on Justification by Grace, for God never gives up on his people. References to righteousness (best understood as living in right relationship with God and others [Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 370-371]) kissing peace (a state of well-being and thriving in society, for the ancient Hebrews [Ibid., p. 130]) can be used to provide insights into what the Christian life looks like (Sanctification and Social Ethics).


Psalm 138
The Alternative Psalm is a thanksgiving for deliverance from trouble, attributed to David. Again we note that it is unlikely that David is the author of the psalms attributed to him (Brevard Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, p. 512). In fact some scholars conclude that references to David in the psalms may be a way of using him to represent the inner life of all his subjects, and so of all the faithful (Ibid., p. 521). This entails that the psalm is to be a thanksgiving by all the faithful. It begins with thanks given in the temple courts (v. 2). Reference is made to giving Yahweh thanks before all the gods (v. 1). This likely refers to a heavenly assembly that surrounds the Lord and may be taken as his supremacy over all the gods [elohim]. The hymn is a prophecy that all the kings of the world will praise God (vv. 4-5). This seems fulfilled in Christianity. The psalm concludes when God is said to be high though he regards the lowly [shaphal or humble], one who preserves us and is a God of steadfast love [chesed, mercy], who does not forsake the work of his hands [yad] (vv. 6-8).

Application: This Alternative Psalm can inspire sermons on God’s supremacy over all society’s false gods and how our God never abandons us, especially not the lowly (Sin, Social Ethics, Justification by Grace).

Hosea 1:2-10
This book of a later prophet is the first installment of Minor Prophets, so named because of the brevity of other books in comparison with Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Hosea’s ministry to the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the eighth century BC followed closely upon Amos. But unlike Amos he came from that region. He worked at a time when Israel was suffering from war with Assyria and in virtual anarchy. The prophet’s marriage to the prostitute Gomer and forgiveness of her dramatizes the book’s dominant theme of divine compassion and love.

The lesson begins with Yahweh directing Hosea to marry the whore Gomer, as it is said that Israel had committed whoredom [zanah] by forsaking him. The prophet complies, and she bears him a son (vv. 2-3). The son is to be named (by the Lord) Jezreel (which means “God sows”), for Yahweh says he will punish the house of Jehu (Israel’s king Jeroboam at the time was descended from his lineage) for the blood of Jezreel. Reference is made to Yahweh breaking the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel, anticipating Israel’s defeat by Assyria in 722 BC (vv. 4-5). (Jezreel refers to a plain in the central section of Israel associated with violence of the power politics practiced by Israel’s kings in gaining power and wealth.) Then Gomer bore a daughter, and Yahweh named her Lo-ruhamah (which means “Not Pitied”). The Lord says he will have no pity on Israel, but will have pity and save Judah (vv. 6-7). (This reference to Judah may be a later addition to the text.) After his daughter had been weaned, a son was born named Lo-ammi (which means “Not My People”), for Israel is not the people of God, and he is not their God (vv. 8-9). The lesson concludes with a reference to the vast number of people of Israel who will survive and that those who were not the Lord’s people shall be known as “Children of the Living God” (v. 10).

Application: This lesson can help us see we sin in all we do, in order to recognize and appreciate our dependence on God’s grace, that he does not abandon us (Sin and Justification by Grace).


Genesis 18:20-32
We note again how like all five books of the Pentateuch, Genesis is probably the product of several distinct literary traditions. This one is just comprised of three strands: 1) J, a ninth/tenth-century BC source so named for its use of the name Jahweh of Yahweh (translated “Lord”) for God; 2) E, an eighth-century BC source named for its use of the divine name Elohim; and 3) P or Priestly source, dated from the sixth century BC. The lesson, pertaining to Abraham’s intercession on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah, seems to be the work of J.

Abraham had accompanied the three men [anashim, though in this case, the story probably alludes to angels] who had visited him and Sarah (vv. 1-16), and the Lord decides to give him his counsel given the special role conferred on Abraham (vv. 17-19). Yahweh laments the gravity of the sin [ehattath] of Sodom and Gomorrah (cities which were located at least forty miles south of Jerusalem, perhaps on the Salt Sea). He vows to investigate their sin (vv. 20-21). The men proceed to Sodom while Abraham remained standing before Yahweh. The patriarch begs the Lord not to sweep away the righteous [tsaddiq] with the unrighteous, asking him to spare the cities if fifty righteous can be found. The Judge of the earth should do what is just (vv. 22-25). It is good to remind ourselves again that the concept of “righteousness” even in an Old Testament context is not to imply that one lives in faultless conformity to some moral law. It has to do with living in right relationship with God and others (see the discussion of righteousness above for Psalm 85). We have also previously noted that the Hebraic equivalent term for “righteousness” does not just connote legal, judgmental actions, but when applied to God concerns loyalty in relationships, the loyalty of God to his Covenant Promises (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 373, 376ff). Yahweh accedes to Abraham’s pleas, and then gradually allows the patriarch to bargain him down to just ten righteous in the city being sufficient to ensure its destruction will not transpire (vv.26-32).

Application: Sermons on this Complementary Version of the First Lesson will focus on how God and the faithful (like Abraham) do not want anyone abandoned and that loyalty and love override punishment (Justification by Grace).

Colossians 2:6-15 (16-19)
The book is a circular letter which, much like Philippians, was either written by Paul from prison (4:3, 10, 18) late in his career or by a follower of Paul who had a hand in assembling the collection of his Epistles. These conclusions follow from the fact that the Epistle includes vocabulary and stylistic characteristics different from the indisputably Pauline writings. The letter addresses Christians in a town in Asia Minor (the most eastern part of modern-day Turkey) near Ephesus, whose church, though not likely founded by Paul, was basically in line with his teachings, though threatened by ascetic teachings (2:21, 23), ritual practices rooted in Jewish traditions (2:16), and philosophical speculations (2:8, 20), all of which were related to visionary insights, and perhaps even the heresy of Gnosticism. This is a lesson devoted to warnings against false teachings.

Paul reminds the Colossians that having received Christ they should thankfully continue to live in him, be rooted [rhizoomai] and built up [epoikodomeo] in him (vv. 6-7). He warns that we not be taken captive through philosophy and other empty deceits (v. 8). (We know little of these false teachings that threaten but know they included ascetic elements, ritualism and the worship of angels [vv. 16-18].) Paul proceeds to note that in Christ the whole fullness [pleroma] of God dwells (v. 9). He is the head [kephale] of every ruler. The faithful come to fullness in him (v. 10). They have been circumcised [peritemno] in him with a spiritual circumcision, buried with him in Baptism and raised with him (vv. 11-12; cf. Romans 6:3-5).

Though dead in sin God is said to have made the faithful alive with him as he forgave [charizomai, was gracious] sin (the record), nailing it to the cross (vv. 13-14). Christ is said to have disarmed rulers and authorities, stripping them of their armor (publically embarrassing them) (v. 15). The author warns that the Colossians not allow themselves to be condemned for not practicing the false asceticism, lunar festivals, ritualism, and angel worship that plagued the church (vv. 16, 18). They are said to be only a shadow [skia] of what is the come. The substance/body [soma] belongs to Christ (v. 17). He is said to nourish the whole Body as its head (v. 19).

Application: This is a good lesson for sermons condemning the temptations that social convention (worldly philosophies) have on Christians and the Church (Sin) in order to confirm that Christ fights these temptations for us (Justification by Grace, Atonement, and Sanctification).

Luke 11:1-13
Again we are reminded that this gospel is the 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 lesson reports on Jesus’ saying about prayer and his teaching of the Lord’s Prayer. Parallel accounts appear in Matthew (6:9-13; 7:7-11).

After finishing prayer, Jesus is asked by a disciple to teach him to pray, as John [the Baptist] had taught his followers (v. 1). Jesus responds by teaching the Lord’s Prayer (vv. 2-4). Then Jesus said to the disciples to suppose each has a friend to whom they go at midnight asking for three loaves of bread with which to entertain a friend who had just arrived (vv. 5-6). The friend says not to bother him when it is so late (v. 7). Jesus notes that this man may not respond because he is a friend, but may respond and arise if there is persistence in the requests (v. 8). He then proceeds to teach that if we knock and ask, these things will be given. Whoever asks God, receives (vv. 9-10).

Jesus then asks the disciples who among them would give their child a snake when a fish was requested or a scorpion instead of the egg requested (vv. 11-12). If we who are evil know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will the Father give the Holy Spirit [pneuma hagion] to those who ask (v. 13)? New Testament scholar Eduard Schweizer notes that these parables reflect God’s character as Father and friend (The Good News According to Luke, p. 193).

Application: This is a lesson for sermons on prayer and the Holy Spirit’s role in it, a reminder that it is even answered when we do not get what we want (Sanctification and the Holy Spirit).

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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