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Proper 25 | Ordinary Time 30 | Pentecost 23, Cycle C (2016)

Fresh starts. Sermons emerging from these lessons will focus on how life is better, almost new, when we are in the presence of God (Justification by Grace and to some extent Sanctification).

Psalm 65
This is an Elohistic Psalm of David offering a thanksgiving for a harvest. We have previously noted 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). Praise [tehillah] is said to be due to God; he answers prayer (vv. 1-2). (Elohim is used as God’s name in this Psalm.) The praise seems to arise out of previous vows made in prayers for help. God is said to forgive transgressions [pesha] (v. 3). Those whom God chooses to bring near [qarab, approach] to live in his courts, it is proclaimed, are happy [ashare, seen by others as blessed] (v. 4). By awesome deeds, the palmist sings, God delivers; he is the hope of all the ends of the earth [erets] (v. 5). By his strength God established [kun, set fast] the mountains and silences the roaring of the seas (vv. 6-7). Those living at the earth’s farthest bounds/uttermost parts are awed by God’s signs. Morning and evening shout for joy (v. 8). God provides rain, it is proclaimed (vv. 9-10). Reference to the river of God is an image for describing God’s bounty. Thus he crowns the year with bounty. Reference is also made to God’s wagon tracks overflowing with richness (vv. 11-12). The image of wagon tracks [magai] refers either to God riding the clouds in a chariot (68:4, 33) or to his Providential Presence. Ecological themes are evidenced here.

Application: Sermons on this text will praise God or his Creating and Providential activity. Social Ethical (Ecological) issues might also be considered. These reflections need to stress God’s forgiving love because he always gives new chances (Justification by Grace).


Psalm 84:1-7
This is Korah Psalm of pilgrimage, in this case praising Mount Zion (in Jerusalem) as the goal of the pilgrim. The Korahites were a group of temple singers. Reference to Gittith is likely a designation of the kind of melody to be used. The pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem may have been in the autumn at the harvest Festival of Booths.

Praise for the temple is offered (vv. 1-2). All who are there, even the birds, find a home in it (vv. 3-4). Selah which follows verse 4 refers to a musical interlude to be inserted at this point. The joys of making a pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem are extolled (vv. 5-7). Reference to the pilgrims’ shield, the face of God’s anointed (vv. 8-9), refers to the king who functioned as the protector of such pilgrims (61:6-7). We do not know the exact location of the valley of Baca (v. 6). The superiority of life in the temple to anywhere else is extolled (vv. 9-12).

Application: Sermons on the joys of residing in God’s presence are readily inspired by the Psalm (Justification by Grace, Sanctification).

Joel 2:23-32
The book reports on the ministry of a cultic prophet who did his work in the Jerusalem Temple, probably during the period of Persian domination after the return of the Babylonian exiles (539 BC–331 BC). (Some speculate that the concluding sections of the book [2:28ff] may be the work of an editor of the period of the Maccabees in the second century BC.) The book’s historical theme is the plague of locusts that had destructively descended on Israel (1:4). It is also characterized by apocalyptic/eschatological elements — references to the day of the Lord (2:1-11, 28-32; 3:1-3, 9ff). There is an evolution in this concept from being a day of judgment, not one of salvation, to the suggestion that it is a theme of hope and salvation (3:1ff).

This text is as continuation of promise of the remission of the plague and a prophecy of the coming day of Yahweh. Some scholars think that references to a locust plague (especially 2:4-5) may in fact be to an army that Joel believed would invade Judah and result in an upcoming day of judgment (H.W. Wolff, Die Botschaft des Joel). The children of Zion are called on to rejoice [sameach] in Yahweh, for he has vindicated them with rain so that a rich harvest will follow (vv. 23-24). The Lord promises to repay [shakam, restore, complete] the people for the years lost by the locus plague (v. 25). They will enjoy plenteous harvest and never again be put to shame [bosh] (v. 26). Thus the people will know that Yahweh is in their midst, and that he is their only God. The Lord promises his presence to his people (v. 27).

The Lord also claims that he will pour out his Spirit [ruach] on all flesh so that the people’s families will prophesy [naba], the old dream, and the young see visions [chizzayon]. The outpouring will be on both genders, on slave and free (vv. 28-29). It is proclaimed that the heavens and the earth will warn of the great and terrible day to come. The sun will turn to darkness and the moon to blood (vv. 30-31). The prophetic ecstasy to be poured out on all is an eschatological reality, as these verses make clear. The prophet then adds that at that time everyone who calls on Yahweh will be saved [yimmalet, delivered], for in Jerusalem there will be those who escape as the Lord promises and those survivors will be “those with whom the Lord dwells” (v. 32).

Application: This is a lesson for sermons proclaiming that the gospel affords a fresh start from our seemingly hopeless present situation (Original Sin and Realized Eschatology) with a spontaneity provided by the Holy Spirit that frees us from old destructive ways of the past (Justification by Grace and Sanctification as Spontaneous Good Works).


Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22
We are reminded again that this book is a collection of prophecies of a late-seventh or early-sixth century BC prophet of Judah from the reigns of Josiah through the era of the Babylonian Captivity. He dictated these prophecies to his aide Baruch. Some of the prophet’s criticism of the house of David and the temple may relate to his having as an ancestor one of David’s high priests, Abiathar, who lost control of the temple and was finally banished (1 Kings 2:26-27). Three sources of the book have been identified; 1) An authentic poetic strand; 2) Biographic prose; and 3) Deuteronomic redaction (reflecting themes of the ninth-century BC religious reforms under King Josiah). The interplay of these strands suggests that the final editors see Jeremiah’s prophecies as relevant in a new context.

This lesson is a lament over a catastrophic drought and the upcoming military defeat of Jerusalem. The lament includes an acknowledgment of iniquities [auon] and apostasies, but the hope [miqveh] of Israel is its savior [yasha] in time of trouble (vv. 7-8a). God is challenged for acting like a stranger and not giving help. For Yahweh is not the midst of the people and will not forsake us (vv. 8b-9). Thus the Lord says concerning the people that they have loved to wander and not restrained their feet and the Lord does not accept them. But he will remember [zakar] their sin no more (v. 10). After Jeremiah’s efforts to excuse the people because of misplaced reliance on the false prophets is rejected by Yahweh and a description of the calamity to follow (vv. 11-18), the people plead for God’s mercy, asking why he struck the people down, while looking for peace [shalom] they find no good [tob], find terror when there should be healing (v. 19). Acknowledging their wickedness [ra], they plea that Yahweh not spurn them for it would dishonor his throne [kisse]. (The image of throne refers to Jerusalem where Yahweh was thought to reside.) They plea that Yahweh not break his covenant [berith] with them, for no idols can bring rain and the heavens cannot give showers. All their hope is on the Lord God. They will wait [qarah] for them (vv. 20-22).

Application: This is a text for bringing the flock to an awareness of our sin, to help make us aware of our dependence on God and his faithfulness to his promises (Justification by Grace).

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
We remind ourselves again that along with 1 Timothy through Titus, this is one of Pastoral Letters, concerned with leadership offices and pastoral oversight. This epistle differs from the other pastorals in being the most personal of them, directed specifically to Timothy, a young convert and companion to Paul in his travels (Acts 16:1; Romans 16:21; 1 Corinthians 4:17). As such it has the best claim of all the Pastoral Epistles for being an authentic work of Paul. The letter’s purpose is to provide advice from a veteran missionary to a younger colleague responsible for a group of churches and for preserving them from dissidents within.

This lesson is part of the concluding reflections of the epistle and includes personal instructions. The author claims already to have been poured out like a libation, that the time for his death has come (v. 6). He says he has fought the fight [aganizo] and kept the faith [pistis] (v. 7). He notes that a crown of righteousness (dikaiosune, crowns were symbols of joy and honor among the Jews) is reserved for him by the Lord who is the righteous judge [krites]. It will be given to all who long for Christ’s coming (v. 8). If we can assume that the author had a Jewish background (as we certainly can if the epistle is written by Paul), then God as righteous judge refers to God’s faithfulness to his promises and that his judgment is good news about God putting an end to persecution and trial by his judgment (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 343, 358-359, 373, 376ff).

In the persona of Paul, the author laments that at his first defense (perhaps an earlier trial reported in Acts 23:1-11) he was deserted. He asks that this not be counted among those deserting him for the Lord stood by him and gave him courage so that the message was proclaimed [kerygma, preaching] to all the Gentiles (vv. 16-17). He proclaims that the Lord will rescue and deliver/save [rhuomai] him for his heavenly kingdom. He concludes with a benediction (v. 18).

Application: Sermons on this lesson will offer comfort in face of despair and fear of death and other forms of suffering (Sin, Justification by Grace, and Atonement).

Luke 18:9-14
Again we return to 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). Addressed to Theophilus (1:1), it is not clear if this means that the work was written for a recent convert or for a Roman official from whom the church sought tolerance. But since Theophilus means “lover of God” it is possible that the author addressed all the faithful. This lesson is the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, a teaching unique to Luke, except for verse 14 that appears in Matthew 23:12 while Jesus is proclaiming woe to Pharisees.

The parable is said to be told to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous [dikaios] through ritual observance, viewing others with contempt (v. 9). A Pharisee and tax collector went to the temple to pray (v. 10). The Pharisee prays a thanksgiving that he is better than others (v. 11). He extols his fasting and tithing (v. 12). Fasting was only obligatory for Jews on the day of atonement; tithing was not obligatory. The tax collector would not even look to heaven but beats his breast begging God to be merciful to him, a sinner (v. 13). He is proclaimed as justified [dikaioo, set right with God], and those exalting themselves are humbled [tapeinoo, made low] (v. 14).

Application: With this text, preachers can critique our Pharisaism (the belief that we are better than we are) (Sin) and proclaim the good news of our forgiveness (Justification by Grace), also giving attention to how that word can change us (Sanctification and Social Ethics).

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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