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Proper 26 | Ordinary Time 31 | Pentecost 23 (Cycle C)

Sunday between October 30 and November 5 inclusive

The theme of “salvation” in many of these texts relates our worship services for the coming weekend to our need for the ongoing Reformation of the Church in our time on October 31 and to All Saints’ Day on November 1, as well as being a reminder to us that we are nearing the end of our annual Church Year cycle.

Psalm 32:1-7

Within the beatitudes of 32:1-1 and again in 32:5 the three most important words for sin in the Hebrew Bible are used. In the sequence of the use of these three words in 32:5 we see the increase in the seriousness of the type of sin from one word for sin to another. First the psalmist acknowledged the lowest level of sin: the failure to please God even when we try. Then the psalmist admitted that the psalmist had moved to the second level of sin: breaking the rules that God had established to be helpful to God’s people. Finally, the psalmist confessed the most serious sin of all: attempted violent insurrection against God.

As is typical in Israelite Individual Hymns of Praise, Psalm 32 tries to teach to all who will hear the wisdom of acknowledging one’s sins to the Lord. The greatest need of people and the greatest gift of God are brought together here, as in so many other places in both our Older Testament and in our Newer Testament, in God’s gracious gift of salvation.

Psalm 119:137-144

The interaction between the psalmist and the Lord is expressed here in terms of the righteousness and covenant-faithfulness of the Lord God. The Israelite and Jewish perception of righteousness and covenant-faithfulness is that it is a condition in which God and the people of God are just and fair in all of their interpersonal relationships. Faithfulness to the covenant requires ongoing and enduring interaction between God and the people of God. In this covenant God provides security and salvation to the people and the people receive their security and their salvation from God.

Isaiah 1:10-18

Even though the people of Jerusalem are addressed as Sodom and as Gomorrah and are said to be as evil as Sodom and Gomorrah, offering animal sacrifices while making no effort to rescue the orphans, widows, and other weak and heavily oppressed persons among them, if they wash themselves and learn to do good, God will provide salvation for them. Although their sins are like scarlet, crimson red, their sins will be like clean wool, as white as the falling snow.

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

Since this text is one of the options for use in Proper 22 above, a modified portion of the notes given for Proper 22 are offered again here.

The good news in the latter portion of 2:4, that “the tsaddik (righteous person) who remains consistently in emunah (faithfulness to the Lord) shall live” was a favorite for the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans, was very important for Martin Luther during his theological crisis, is significant for all of us as Christians, and certainly has been a basic guide for Israelites and Jews down through the centuries. The tsaddik, who within the outer limits set by the commandments in the Torah makes the necessary decisions in life, assigning priorities among the many demanding relationships of the righteous person, shall live in security, in firmness, shall have salvation within a covenant relationship with the Lord, with all responsible people, and with the material things of this world. It is the same for us.

2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12

The Thessalonians are praised in this text for their fortitude, for their faith, and for their love for one another, even while they are enduring manifold struggles and tribulations. The writers testify that they are praying that God will make the followers of Jesus in Thessalonica worthy of their calling and will fulfill for them every desire that they have for that which is good. All of this is said to be done in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified among the Thessalonians.

The people to whom this is written are said within 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, the portion of chapter 1 that is not included within the text selected for us for this occasion, to be worthy of rest and salvation because of their suffering, not by the unmerited grace of God that the Apostle Paul himself emphasized so strongly within the seven basic letters written by Paul and included in the Christian Scriptures.

Luke 19:1-10

This story about Zacchaeus is familiar to us, especially because it has been a favorite in our children’s education curricula and because of the action song for children, “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he?.” The story is in Luke only.

Because Zacchaeus in this story welcomed Jesus joyfully and because he made ample restoration to his associates and to the poor, he has salvation. It would be interesting to share within our message this coming Sunday the various ways in which salvation is said to be received within each of the texts selected for this occasion.

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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