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Proper 5 | Ordinary Time 10 | Pentecost 3, Cycle C (2016)

The authority of unconditional grace. This is a Sunday for preaching on themes of Justification by Grace, Providence, and Predestination.

Psalm 146
As noted several times previously, Psalms is a collection of prayers and songs composed throughout Israel’s history. It is organized into five collections of books, perhaps an analogy to the five books of the Torah. The authors of each of the psalms are largely unknown, as in this case. This loosening of them from their historical origins entails the validity of their use today in very different contexts from their origins (Brevard Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, p. 523). The actual title of the book is derived from a Greek term meaning “Song” [psalmos]. The Hebrew title of the book, Tehillim, means “hymns” or “songs of praise.” This psalm is a hymn praising God for his help. It begins with praise [halal] and a commitment by the psalmist to praise Yahweh as long as he lives (vv. 1-2). We are reminded not to put our trust in anyone but God, for all human beings will lose their breath [ruach] and return to the earth in death (vv. 3-4). Those whose help [ezer] is in God are said to be happy [ashere, seen or envied by others as blessed] (v. 5). Over-against human inadequacy, it is proclaimed that God is the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is it, who executes justice [mishpat judgment] for the oppressed [ashaq], feeds the hungry, sets the prisoners [asar, those bound] free, loves the righteous [tsaddiq],and upholds orphans and widows [almanah, also “silent ones”]. When we remind ourselves that God’s judgment in the Hebraic sense is a word of comfort, in the sense that it can cause positive outcomes and provide comfort, knowing that God’s just acts have an end in sight, it seems here that a promise is made that the oppression and poverty have an end in sight (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 343, 358-359). It is noted that God gives help to all who need it, especially the oppressed and hungry (vv. 6-9). Concluding praise of God’s eternal rule is offered (v. 10).

Application: This psalm provides several possible homiletical directions, all related to offering praise and thanks for all God does. Besides celebrating that all we have is from God (Providence and Sanctification), one might also preach on the goodness of creation and ecology (Social Ethics). Sermons with a Social Ethical concern about poverty and oppression are also suggested.


Psalm 30
This alternative psalm is a thanksgiving for healing (or restoration), attributed to David. We have previously noted how unlikely it is that David wrote such psalms attributed to him. It is also said to be a song at the dedication of the Jerusalem Temple. This superscription may indicate that this psalm was used at the Feast of Dedication (Hanakkah) after the cleansing of the temple by Judas Maccabeus in 164 BC.

The psalm begins by extolling Yahweh for not drawing/lifting up the psalmist or letting his foes rejoice over him (v. 1). He claims to have cried for help and been healed, been brought up from Sheol (the place of the dead) and restored to life (vv. 2-3). The congregation is invited to join in giving thanks, for the Lord’s anger is but a moment and his favor [ratson, good will] for a lifetime (vv. 4-5). The psalmist testifies that before enduring his trial he had felt secure (vv. 6-7). Reference to God hiding his face [panim] is an image connoting the psalmist’s sense of God having withheld his favor. Then with illness, he turns to God (vv. 8-10), God restores health, and ends the psalmist’s mourning (removing his sackcloth) (vv. 11-12).

Application: Sermons on this Alternative Psalm might explore the low points in life (suffering and Sin) and celebrate how God delivers (Providence and Justification by Grace).


1 Kings 17:8-24
We note again that the book’s origin as a distinct work derives from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Septuagint), which divided the story of Israel’s monarchy into four sections (1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings). In its final form it is probably the result of the Deuteronomistic (D) History (the result of sweeping religious reforms in Judah under King Josiah in the seventh century BC), but perhaps later revised after the Exile in 587 BC. This book recounts the history of Israel from the death of David through the history of the divided kingdoms and the death of the Israelite King Ahab. This lesson is the beginning of the story of Elijah and his prediction of a drought in Israel (the Northern Kingdom) during the reign of Ahab (869 BC-850 BC) who is portrayed by the Southern Kingdom source of the book as an evil king.

Elijah is introduced as a Tishbite, from central Palestine. He proclaims that Yahweh lives and there will be a drought (v. 1). The Word came to him telling him to hide east of the Jordan (probably in a territory outside of Ahab’s jurisdiction [vv. 2-3]). There he is directed to get water from streambeds and that ravens would feed him (v. 4). Elijah complies and what Yahweh told him was fulfilled (vv. 5-6). After awhile, though, the streambeds dried up as there was no rain in the land (v. 7). Yahweh then tells Elijah to go to Zarephath on the Phoenician coast, which was the heartland of the cult of Baal. He is told that there is a widow [almanah] who will feed him (vv. 8-9). Elijah complies and finds a widow gathering sticks. He asks her for some water and bread (vv. 10-11). The widow responds that as Yahweh lives she had nothing added, only a handful of meal in a jar and is simply gathering sticks to prepare it for herself and her son (v. 12). Most widows lived in poverty in this era. The prophet responds that she should not fear [yare], should make him a little cake of what she has, and then make something for herself and her son. There will still be plenty of food, he prophesies. She complies and there was in fact plenty of food (vv. 14-16).

Then the widow’s son became severely ill, losing all breath. She blames his death on Elijah (vv. 17-18). Taking the child from the widow’s bosom and bringing him to his own bed, Elijah calls to Yahweh, lamenting the calamity brought on the widow (vv. 19-20). Then Elijah laid himself on the child three times, crying unto the Lord, and he came back to life (vv. 21-22). Elijah gives him to his mother and she responds with the confession that now she knows he is a man of God speaking the word of the Lord (vv. 23-24).

Application: This lesson affords opportunities for proclaiming that God gives grace, healing, and salvation without our providing anything for him (Justification by Grace).


1 Kings 17:17-24
See the description of the book and the relevant verses in the first alternative to the First Lesson. The lesson recounts the story of the resurrection of the widow’s on by Elijah, a dramatic example of God’s control over life and death.

Application: Since the verses for this Complementary First Lesson overlap with the first alternative, the Application for these verses is the same as noted above.


Galatians 1:11-24
We note again that this book is a polemical letter written by Paul to a church he had founded. Its aim is to affirm that Gentiles need not become Jews in order to become Christian. In this lesson Paul makes efforts to vindicate his apostleship. The lesson begins with Paul’s assertion that his gospel is not of human origin but received through a revelation [apolalupsis] of Jesus Christ (vv. 11-12). He describes his original career as a fervent Jew and persecutor of Christians. In claiming he advanced/progressed [proekopton] in Judaism, Paul may have been declaring himself as having made progress in cultivating virtue as a Jew (vv. 13-14). He notes that he was set apart by God before he was born and called through grace [charis] (v. 15). Christ was revealed to him in order that he might proclaim him to the Gentiles. No conferring with any human beings about this matter transpired, not even with the apostles in Jerusalem (vv. 16-17). He is clearly trying to assert that his commission to apostleship was due to God’s plan. After three years Paul notes he visited in Jerusalem with Cephas/Peter and James (the brother of Jesus) (vv. 18-19). He closes by noting that he does not lie (v. 20) and proceeds to outline his missionary agenda and its success (vv. 21-22, 24).

Application: The lesson invites sermons on how through God’s election (Predestination) we are set apart to serve (Sanctification) and do mission (Evangelism).


Luke 7:11-17
Once again it should be noted that this gospel is 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 reports the miracle of the resurrection of the widow’s son at Nain (a town 25 miles southwest of Capernaum). The story reflects an event in Elijah’s ministry described in the First Lesson (1 Kings 17:8-24). But this account is unique to Luke.

The account begins with Jesus’ journey to Nain (a village near Nazareth) with a large crowd (v. 11). Approaching the town gate, he encountered a procession carrying the body of a man who had been his widowed mother’s only son (v. 12). (Burials were not allowed in Jewish towns.) Jesus has compassion for the widow (as she had lost her only source of support in old age). This is consistent with Luke’s preoccupation with the poor. The word Lord [kuprios] is used here and elsewhere in Luke to refer to Jesus (v. 13). The bearers stand still, Jesus touches the bier, commands the body to rise, and he did (vv. 14-15). (Touching the coffin as Jesus did here was a violation of Jewish purity laws. He offers the command as if not needing God to bring about the resurrection.) Fear [phobos, an awe connoting awareness of the limits of human understanding and of a divine visitation] seizes the crowd, and Jesus is proclaimed a great prophet [prophetes] (v. 16). The word about him is reported to have spread in Judea (v. 17).

Application: The story suggests sermons on how the presence of Jesus unconditionally excites our response. Justification by Grace and Sanctification as spontaneous good works are implied, as well as a message that the best evangelism is often unplanned.

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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