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Proper 4 | Ordinary Time 9 | Pentecost 2 (Cycle C)

Sunday between May 29 and June 4 inclusive (if after Trinity Sunday)

In each of the texts selected here for this occasion, there is some indication that the Lord (Adonai in the Older Testament texts and God the Father and Jesus as the Christ in the Newer Testament texts) is God for all people. This will, therefore, be a message that we shall want to share through our use of these texts.

Psalm 96
Psalm 96:1-9

According to this Community Hymn of Praise, the glory of the Lord God of Israel is to be proclaimed among all nations, to all people. Unlike the false gods and idols of other people, the Lord God of Israel is said to be the one who created and sustains the heavens and the earth. All honor and majesty are to be given to the Lord God, and abundant offerings are to be given to the Lord, the King of all.

1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43

Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the temple was probably written or at least augmented considerably during the years between 970 and 540 BCE. We note particularly the theological motif of the Deuteronomic History of Israel in Its Land in 1 Kings 8:23b, “keeping your covenant and showing your steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart,” and in 8:33-34 (not included in this selection), “When your people Israel are defeated by their enemy because they have sinned against you, if they turn again to you and acknowledge your name and pray and make supplication to you in this house, then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them again to the land that you gave to their fathers.”

The writers of these traditions attempted to justify the innovative idea of a national worship center within the recently captured city of Jerusalem, where there had been no consecrating theophany. The place “that Adonai has chosen” was actually in the eyes of most of the rural Israelites not a holy place. It was merely a royal chapel at a site selected by Solomon and built by command of the new king as a focal point for Solomon’s empire. There was understandably much opposition to the closing out and abandoning of the traditional local holy places and to the requirement of centralized worship.

1 Kings 18:20-21 (22-29) 30-39

The purpose of this famous story about the contest between Elijah, the only remaining prophet of the Lord God of Israel, and the 450 prophets of Baal is obviously to show that only the Lord God of Israel has awesome, unlimited power to perform a marvelous, amazing act of nature. The 450 prophets of Baal are totally powerless even when the “deck is stacked” in their favor. The story is intended to maintain the faith of those who hear it, even though in their own experience they have seen no phenomenon such as this. The story and our affirmation of faith are intended to have the same result.

Galatians 1:1-12

The Apostle Paul makes the bold claim here that because he has been commissioned by God the Father and by the Lord Jesus Christ the good news that he proclaims must not be altered or changed in any way. He appeals to God to affirm him, to God and God’s Son as the only valid authority.

Unless there is an explanation for the people today about the problem between Paul and the Judaizing followers of Jesus, Paul’s unwavering condemnation of the teachings of the Judaizing Christians in Galatians 1:6-9 can be misunderstood and misused today by those who wish to reject all innovation in worship and in all other aspects of life and to guarantee the status quo in every situation.

Luke 7:1-10

Apparently a traditional story about a healing by Jesus at a distance from the patient was developed differently in Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10, and John 4:46b-54. The Lukan account is the most fully developed. Eric Franklin, Christ the Lord: A Study in the Purpose and Theology of Luke-Acts (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975, pp. 77-79, 178-179), finds in the principal Lukan additions to this account (vv. 3-5), in which the centurion is described as one who loves the Jewish people and built the synagogue in Capernaum, and in the description of Cornelius in Acts 10:2 as “a devout man and one who fears God with all his household, giving alms for all of the people, and prays to God through everything,” something that seems to come close to a self-portrait of the Lukan writer. In Franklin’s opinion, the Lukan writer was greatly influenced by the Jewish faith (we should more precisely say by the expression of the Jewish faith in the Septuagint) and was led to see in Jesus the fulfillment of the Jewish hopes and the climax of all of God’s saving actions.

In 7:3-5 and throughout the entire Luke 7:1-10 account, the emphasis is on the faith of the centurion, a faith that does not request a sign, or even a personal contact, but relies entirely on Jesus’ word. The elders of the Jews are merely of tertiary importance in this text. They are made to beseech Jesus in behalf of the Gentile benefactor who according to this account has his request granted, his slave healed, and his faith lavishly praised.

The Greek phrase en to Israel should be translated as “among my own people,” since this is the sense of the expression within the setting of the Jesus of history, and since this translation has the double advantage of reducing the anti-Jewish polemic and helping the Christian reader or hearer today to employ this text self-critically and become more personally involved.

This text, like many others in Luke, illustrates how the Lukan writer presents Jewish leaders as relatively friendly to Jesus only to find themselves humiliated in the process. For this, see Luke 14:1-24; 17:20-21, and most of all 11:37-54.

Our situation, like that of the Lukan writer, is one in which we relate to Jesus from a distance. The distance is even greater for us, since Jesus the Christ is now for us one with God the Father within the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. We relate to the Son of God by faith and we receive the grace of God, life, new life, and healing by faith. That healing comes to us in many different forms. It does not always come to us in the way that we would like for it to come. Neither did it always come in the manner in which people expected it to come within the biblical accounts. When we receive that healing, we are to thank, praise, and glorify God and Jesus our Savior.

That healing is not limited to Christians. Just as the non-Jewish Roman centurion was a beneficiary of that healing in this Luke 7:1-10 text, non-Christians can also benefit from that healing today. The text does not state that the centurion became a follower of Jesus, although perhaps that may be implied.

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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