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 27 / Pentecost 22 / Ordinary Time 32, Cycle A

The difference relating to God makes. In keeping with the theme of the Pentecost season, we are led to examine the implications of our relationship with God for living the Christian life (Sanctification and Social Ethics).

Psalm 78:1-7
The lesson is part of a long story/song of God’s great deeds (especially the giving of the law) and his people’s faithfulness (or lack of it). This Maskil (an artful song composed with aesthetic skill) of Asaph (one of David’s chief musicians, see 1 Chronicles 6:39; 15:17; 16:5-7) is a psalm composed for one of the major festivals. In the style of wisdom writings like 49:1-4, the psalm calls the people to listen to the teaching of a parable [mashal, or "proverb"] or dark/hidden sayings [chidah] of old (vv. 1-2). These are things heard of old from the ancestors (v. 3). It is noted that this will not be hidden from the children but will be told to coming generations — the glorious deeds [maalal] of the Lord (v. 4). Yahweh is said to have established a decree (probably the covenant) and a law [torah] in Israel that he commanded the ancestors to teach their children, and the next generations might know to set their hope in God and keep his commandments [mitsvah] (vv. 5-7). It is good to be reminded at this point that for the Jewish faith the law is not considered a judgmental, condemnatory decree, but is deemed as instruction or a guide to life (Leo Trepp, Judaism: Development and Life, p. 2).

Application: God’s faithfulness to his plans and covenant (the essence of his righteousness [see Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1, p. 372]) might be the subject of a sermon on this song. Or one might also combine this theme or just focus on what difference this makes in the lives of the faithful. They are given a guide for life (Sanctification).


Psalm 70
This psalm, practically identical with Psalm 40:13-17, is a prayer/lament for deliverance from personal enemies. It is said to be a memorial offering of David. Keep in mind that many scholars have concluded that references to David in the psalms may have been a way of using him to represent the inner life of all his subjects and so of all the faithful (Brevard Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, p. 521). In that sense this song is about the praise the faithful give God for rescuing us. The psalm begins with petitions to God to deliver the psalmist (v. 1). The psalmist then requests that those who seek his life be put to shame (v. 2). Petitions are offered that all who seek Elohim rejoice and be glad in him. Those who love [aheb] his salvation [yeshuah, also translated "safety" or "ease"] are exhorted to say forevermore that “God is great” (v. 4)! The psalmist adds that he is poor [ani, which also means "oppressed"] and needy, and so God is petitioned to hasten, for he is our help [ezer] and deliverer [palat] (v. 5).

Application: The text invites sermons on the atonement (the Classic View and its idea that God overcomes the evils in our lives), but also on how he rescues the poor (Social Ethics and the idea of God’s preferential option for the poor).

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
We have noted that this book is part of the Deuteronomistic strand that gave rise not just to Deuteronomy but also the histories in 1 and 2 Samuel as well as 1 and 2 Kings. The strand emerged in the seventh century BC during the reign of the religious reformer King Josiah of Judah. This book tells the story of Joshua’s leadership of Israel. There is a tension in the book between an apparently unified assault against Gentile inhabitants of the land, which succeeded under Joshua (11:23; 18:1), and the more piecemeal victory by the various tribes as represented in the book of Judges. This may be deemed eschatologically as a proclamation of what is to come if the Hebrews remain obedient (22:1-4).

This text is an account of the covenant at Shechem, a fuller report of the events narrated in 8:30-35. Joshua is said to have gathered all the tribes at Shechem in Canaan (not far from Samaria and near Mount Ebal, the site of the covenant renewal reported in chapter 8). They presented themselves before God (v. 1). After summarizing God’s actions in locating the people of Israel in Egypt and liberating them, including how God gave them conquest of the Promised Land (vv. 2-13), the people are told to revere Yahweh and faithfully serve him and to put away other gods (v. 14). Joshua insists the people decide that day whom they will serve. He confesses that he has chosen Yahweh (v. 15). The people answer that they will not forsake Yahweh Elohim who brought them out of slavery and protected them from all the people they passed, even driving out the Amorites who lived in the Promised Land (vv. 16-18). Joshua tells the people that they cannot serve Yahweh, for he is a holy [qadosh] and jealous/zealous [qanno] God who will not forgive [nasa, meaning literally "lift up"] their sins (v. 19). If he is forsaken for other gods [elohim], he will do them harm (v. 20). The people insist they will serve Yahweh, and Joshua gets them to concede that they are their own witnesses about this (vv. 21-22). Joshua tells them to put away all foreign gods, inclining their hearts only to Yahweh. The people affirm that they will serve and obey him (vv. 23-24). Joshua then makes a covenant [berith] with Israel, along with statutes [choq] and ordinances [mishpat, literally "judgments"] (v. 25).

Application: Several related sermon options are offered with this lesson. On one hand, the focus could be on the various forms of idolatry in the modern world (Sin) and the need to be loyal to the true God. We could then make clear how this is a countercultural lifestyle, as it was for the Hebrews (Sanctification). It is good to remind ourselves again that the Hebrew term mishpat associated with the covenant at Shechem in our lesson may connote a sense of comfort to the faithful, as per Psalm 72:2; 76:9, not just the threat of punishment. And so the lesson is an occasion to focus on the comfort relating to God above all else provides (Justification by Grace and Sanctification).


Amos 5:18-24
The book is a collection of the oracles and visions of the eighth century BC prophet to the Northern Kingdom during its greatest pinnacle of national prosperity, which was perceived by the people as the result of its military might. Amos denounces Israel and its neighbors for reliance on military might, the social injustices it had permitted, its immorality, and its shallow piety. Though many of the writings were probably by Amos himself, written in Judah after his expulsion from the royal sanctuary of Israel, segments of the book are the work of a later third-party editor of these prophecies. This lesson is part of the prophet’s indictment of Israel for its sin and injustice.

Amos challenges those who desire the day [yom] of Lord (which was thought by ancient Hebrews to be a time of vindication from their enemies). For his testimony is that it is a day of darkness not light, a day of doom (vv. 18-20). Yahweh is said to despise the Israelites’ festivals and assemblies, and will not accept their burnt offerings (vv. 21-22). Rather than hear the people’s songs, God proclaims that he wants justice [mishpat, or judgment] rolling down like waters and righteousness [tsedeq, which has to do with the quality of relationships and can also mean justice] like an ever-flowing stream (vv. 23-24). This is a common preoccupation for Amos. We need to clarify once again the concepts of justice and righteousness for the ancient Hebrews. Most Old Testament scholars agree that these are not concepts merely about legal, judgmental actions on God’s part, but are more about relationships with Yahweh, something he bestows on the faithful. But an important aspect of this relationship is God’s will for justice, being a guarantor of all who are deprived of their right (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 322, 373, 376ff; Vol. 2, pp. 134-135). And so that is to be an agenda for God’s people in right relationship with him.

Application: The text’s reference to the Eschaton (Day of the Lord) entails that a sermon on this Complementary First Lesson should give hope. It is a word about hope for justice (Social Ethics) which God wants, but also about the false piety that too often gets in the way of the quest for justice and quality relations (Sin).

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
As we have previously noted, the book is likely an authentic letter by Paul, written to a church of mostly Gentiles in a Greek city threatened by social pressures and some persecution to return to the values of secular culture. The book may contain fragments of several letters. In this lesson Paul addresses questions concerning the coming of the Lord. He begins by noting that he does not want people uninformed about those who have died. He wants them to have hope [elpis] (v. 13). He reminds them that as Jesus died and rose again, so through Jesus God will bring with him those who have died (v. 14). Paul then declares by the word of the Lord (presumably a special revelation to him) that those still alive and left until the Lord [kurios, a title reserved for rulers] comes (he seems here to reflect the belief that some of his contemporaries would live to see Christ’s second coming) will not precede those who have died (v. 15). The Lord himself will descend from heaven with the archangel’s call and sound of a trumpet (a common announcement of a ruler’s arrival), and then the dead in Christ will rise first (v. 16). Then he teaches those alive will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (v. 17). Paul finally urges the faithful to comfort [parakaleo] each other with these words (v. 18).

Application: This text suggests sermons for engaging doubts about the second coming and our own resurrections with assurances that (in the big sweep of cosmic and evolutionary history [millions of years]) it will not be long, along with attention to the implications of this hope for living everyday life. Sanctification and Eschatology are special foci for these homiletical directions.

Matthew 25:1-13
We note again that this gospel is an anonymous work based on oral traditions about Jesus (though traditionally attributed to Matthew, one of Jesus’ disciples [9:9]). The book may well have been written in the last third of the first century in Antioch, for its Bishop Ignatius seems to quote it as early as 110 AD. That it is written in Greek seems to rule out the disciple as its author. This lesson reports the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids, a story peculiar to this gospel.

We begin with Jesus comparing the kingdom of God to ten bridesmaids/virgins [parthenos] who went to meet the bridegroom (v. 1). Five were foolish and five were wise (v. 2). A distinction can be made between the second coming of Christ and coming of the kingdom. The foolish are reported to have taken no oil, but the wise reportedly had flasks of oil with their lamps (vv. 3-4). When the bridegroom was delayed, everyone slept (v. 5). Then there seems to have been a shout at midnight that the bridegroom was coming (v. 6). All the bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish asked the wise for some oil (vv. 7-8). But these women replied that there will not be enough for everyone and those without oil had to go to dealers to buy more for themselves (v. 9). While the foolish women were gone the bridegroom came and those who were ready went with him to the wedding banquet and then the doors were shut (v. 10). The foolish bridesmaids came to ask the lord to open the door for them, but he replied that he does not know them (vv. 11-12). Jesus adds that we must keep awake [gregoreo, literally "watch"], for we know neither the day nor the hour (v. 13).

Application: Sermons on this parable should be devoted to the issue of clarifying priorities about what is important in life, pointing out how too often we seek comfort in the wrong things (Sin). It should be made clear that our relation to Christ is the right priority and how that changes things (Justification by Grace and Sanctification). An element of urgency (Realized Eschatology) about the need to sort out our priorities could be introduced.

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