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

Proper 19 | Ordinary Time 24, Cycle B

In each of these texts selected for use in our worship services next Sunday there is a model that the hearer is urged to follow. Let us look at these models more closely in preparation for our proclamation and for our parenesis next Sunday. How will these models be helpful to us and to the people with whom we serve as we prepare this week for the message that we will be called by God to share during the worship services next Sunday?

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Within the context of the Suffering Servant songs of the Isaiah traditions near the end of the exilic period we hear this voice, we have this testimony, we perceive this model. It is the voice and the model of a prophet, perhaps of an ideal prophet or of the best elements of Israelite prophecy. Eventually within the ongoing Israelite and Jewish interpretation of this portion of the Suffering Servant songs with the addition of the word “Israel” in Isaiah 49:3 the voice and model became the voice and model of Israel itself. For the followers of Jesus during the embryonic period in the development of the Christian Church, in retrospective reflection over the life, suffering and death, and resurrection of Jesus as the Risen Christ of faith, it also became the voice of Jesus, the one now perceived within the developing Church as the Suffering Servant par excellence who suffered and died on the cross for all of us.

Perhaps we should say that for us today it is not a matter of whether it is Israelite prophecy at its best, Israel itself, or Jesus who is the Suffering Servant. The inspired prophets of ancient Israel, the people of Israel, and Jesus as the Risen Christ all have suffered for us. Can we and all other Christians accept the sharing of the Suffering Servant role with Israel and the Jews? After Auschwitz, do we have any other choice? Was the suffering of the Jesus of history, of Jesus the Jew, on the Roman cross for a few horrible hours greater than the suffering of a million Jewish babies and children torn from their mothers and thrown over the heads of their mothers into the packed gas chambers by the Nazis? If Jesus the Jew had been born to Mary the Jew in Germany, Poland, or elsewhere in the lands occupied by the Germans during the Holocaust, would his life have been spared? Of course, it would not have been spared.

In this Isaiah 50:4-9a Suffering Servant model, therefore, the suffering of Jesus the Jew can no longer be separated from the suffering of other Jews and from the suffering of others as well who are oppressed even today in the Sudan, China, and in many other places. Do we have the call and the courage to share this realization in some way as we use this Isaiah 50:4-9a model in our message next Sunday? If we lack the call and the courage to share it, let us remain silent next Sunday and not merely mouth our old, oft-repeated clichés that separate the suffering of Jesus from our time, from 20th and 21st century suffering. With this Isaiah 50:4-9a Suffering Servant model, neither should we retain without any attempt at repudiation the most vicious anti-Jewish expressions within our Newer Testament that contributed to the situation in Europe that made the success of the Nazi war against the Jews and against other powerless people in Europe possible. Perhaps there are times when we must say with the Jesus of Matthew 5, “It is written, but I say…” or with Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:6 that “the written record condemns and kills, but the Spirit makes us alive.” Cannot we permit the Spirit of God to “make us alive” today? Is the Lord God of revelation silent or even perhaps dead among us? Has God said nothing new for the past eighteen centuries? Cannot we be inspired individuals today? Of course we can. To the glory of God, we can and must.

Psalm 116:1-9

It is basic to this Individual Hymn of Praise and Thank offering genre to testify to everyone who is present concerning the seriousness of the problem that the psalmist has faced, the wisdom of turning to the Lord for help, the nature of the deliverance, and the necessity of offering thanks and praise to the Lord. As a result, the person offering the testimony automatically becomes the model to be followed. Even though we have many of these Individual Hymns of Praise and Thank offering within the biblical accounts, many of us have been conditioned within our tradition to refrain from offering ourselves as a model of this sort. Perhaps we should ask some respected mature persons within our congregations who have been in distress, have called upon the Lord, have been relieved from the distress, and praise God for that relief to share their experiences within the worship service next Sunday in order to provide contemporary counterparts to the psalmist’s song. Every congregation at any given time has several persons who have had such experiences and probably will be glad to tell about them if asked.

Proverbs 1:20-33

Here, as in many other places in the collection of the Writings that we call the book of Proverbs, wisdom is personified as a woman crying out in the street, offering to help those who are simple and who foolishly turn away. The wisdom of God is the model here, warning those who reject her moral guidelines that they will realize their need for the wisdom that God provides only when it will be too late for them to respond.

Psalm 19

At the conclusion of this Hymn of Praise to God as the Creator of the universe and as the one who graciously provides the Torah, the model for us to follow is that of the person who rejects sin and acts of evil, calls upon God as one’s rock and redeemer, and asks that the person’s words and meditation be acceptable in the sight of God.

Wisdom of Solomon 7:26–8:1

The model to follow here is the person who lives with wisdom, with the wisdom that God so freely and graciously provides. Such a person is truly loved by God. How could anyone be so foolish as not to be and not to live like the person depicted in this model, the person who is attracted in this way to God?

James 3:1-12

The writer of this document urges the reader and hearer to understand the importance of controlling the person’s own tongue, what the person says. The tongue of a person, though it is a small portion of the person’s body, is like the mouth of a horse, for the horse will go in the direction of its mouth, a huge ship will be guided by a small rudder, and a little fire can cause a huge forest to burn. The person who can control that person’s tongue is the model to be followed here. No human without the power that God provides is strong enough and disciplined enough to provide that model for us to follow. Not here in this portion of the Epistle of James, but beyond it in the portion of the Gospel According to Mark selected for next Sunday will we see this model.

Mark 8:27-38

The model that this text provides within the context of the other readings selected for our use next Sunday is the model, of course, of Jesus suffering on the cross, and here in Mark 8:27-38 we are urged to take up our cross and to follow after Jesus. Jesus is depicted here as the Christ, not a military Messiah who leads his followers boldly into battle against his enemies, but a Messiah who is the Suffering Servant of the Lord, the Christ who dies on the cross. Jesus, as this Messiah, at first cautions his followers to tell no one about his identity in order that he may tell as many of his fellow Jews as possible what he believes, that the Lord God is coming very soon to remove the Roman oppressors, that at that time only the Lord God will be ruling over them and the Romans will be gone from the land. Jesus, as this Messiah, tells his followers to worship and accept the absolute claims of authority only of the Lord God, and no longer to submit to the absolute claims of authority of the Romans. He tells his followers not to talk with outsiders about his identity as a Messiah figure, because he wants to reach as many people as possible with his message of suffering resistance before he dies on the cross.

The Theology of this Mark 8:27-38 text and the dominant Theology of the entire New Testament tradition is a Theology of the Cross, a Theology of Jesus as the Christ crucified and risen from the dead. According to this Theology of the Cross, God did not intervene to prevent the death of Jesus on the cross, but God vindicated and validated him as the Christ by raising Jesus from the dead.

What then is our task, this week and at all times? We are urged to develop, to apply to our own lives, and to proclaim a Theology of the Cross that is adequate and appropriate for our time and place. What does this mean? It is our task to follow the role model of Jesus crucified and raised from the dead. We are no longer passively to endure needless and meaningless suffering in ourselves and in other people, but instead to join vigorously and fearlessly to oppose needless suffering, to do everything that we possibly can to overcome poverty, hunger, oppression, exploitation, abuse, disease, and death. It is our task to “go to the wall,” if necessary, for the sake of others. Is this not what is meant by the biblical injunction to “participate in the sufferings of Christ”? What a model to follow! What kind of example are we as pastors and worship leaders and members of our congregations providing? Is the priestly role of building up a congregation of power, prestige, and wealth the only role appropriate for us?

There are many in the Church who proclaim and who live not a “Theology of the Cross,” but instead a “Theology of Prosperity,” a “Theology of Success,” a message that says that if you, like us, accept Jesus into your hearts and no longer sin, you will be as happy and as successful as we are! The “Theology of Prosperity” is appealing to many people, to many who are poor and have no prosperity, as well as to many who have become wealthy and prosperous. It is not the Theology, however, of these texts, of Paul and the Four Gospels, of our biblical tradition.

For a well-written and very understandable biblical “Theology of the Cross,” amply illustrated with examples from his own experiences, see Philip L. Ruge-Jones, The Word of the Cross in a World of Glory (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008).

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