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Proper 8 | Ordinary Time 13 | Pentecost 6 (Cycle C)

Sunday between June 26 and July 2 inclusive

The emphasis in these texts on trusting in the Lord (Adonai in Psalm 16 and in Psalm 77 and Jesus as the Christ in Luke 9:51-62) is appropriate for this occasion, near our annual celebration of the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in the USA. Also useful in this connection is the article by Hans Walter Wolff, “Swords into Plowshares–Misuse of a Word of Prophecy?” (Currents in Theology and Mission 12:3, June, 1985, pp. 133-147).

Psalm 16

It is likely that this psalm was selected for this occasion because of its emphasis on trust in Adonai, which may be compared to the emphasis in Luke 9:51-62 on trust in Jesus as the Christ. Just as the psalmist warns against the folly of choosing a god other than Adonai, so also the Lukan writer’s Jesus announces that following the Lukan Jesus in the proclamation of the kingdom of God takes precedence over all other responsibilities. The psalmist and the Lukan Jesus differ, however, in that the psalmist enjoys security and happiness within this life but the Lukan Jesus calls people to follow him in a very difficult itinerant ministry of proclamation of the kingdom of God in a very insecure setting of economic and political oppression, a proclamation that is correctly perceived by the Roman oppressors to be a political as well as religious alternative to Roman rule. The psalmist describes a religion that is individual, or at most national, within a henotheistic situation. The Lukan Jesus speaks about a religion that seeks universalistic application, but makes exclusivistic theological claims, and requires priority over all other responsibilities, even within one’s own family.

Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20

In deep despair the psalmist cries aloud to the Lord God in the night, to God who seems to have forgotten to be gracious to the suffering psalmist. Then the psalmist recalls the saving acts of God in redeeming the pre-Israelites from slavery in Egypt, leading and guiding them through the waters of the sea. By reflecting over the saving events of the past, the psalmist’s trust in the Lord God is restored.

1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21

First Kings 19:15-16, 19-21 is undoubtedly paired with Luke 9:51-62 in part at least because of the similarity and contrast between Elijah’s granting Elisha’s request to kiss his mother and his father good-bye and the Lukan Jesus’ rejection of the man in Luke 9:51-62 who wanted to say good-bye to his family. Only Luke among the Gospel accounts makes so radical a demand.

This 1 Kings text is a prime example within the Hebrew Bible of the call of the Israelite prophets to speak and act within the political realm, even within the realm of international politics, in the name of the Lord. Elijah is ordered and commissioned by the Lord God to anoint a new king, Hazael, as king in Aram (Syria), a foreign power, and Jehu as king over Israel, his own nation. Jehu will replace the dynasty of Omri and cleanse Israel of the worship of Baal.

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14

This dramatic account of the ascension of Elijah into heaven within a whirlwind and in a chariot of fire pulled by horses burning with fire is vivid and spectacular, more impressive than the account in Deuteronomy 34 of the death and burial of Moses and the depiction by the Lukan playwright in Acts 1:6-11 of Jesus being take up into heaven by a cloud. It gave to Elijah an aura of deathlessness, of a person who might somehow return, a person of interest both to Jews and to Christians. Even today during the Seder Jews set a place for Elijah and have a child go to the door to welcome the prophet to a place at their table.

Galatians 5:1, 13-25

Here, as in other Galatians texts and in 2 Corinthians 3:6 and Romans 7:6 (as indicated more fully in the comments on Galatians 3:23-29 for the previous Sunday) Paul contrasts the Torah — the Bible as Paul knew it — with the new life in the Spirit of God and of Jesus perceived as the Christ that Paul claimed and proclaimed. Following the Septuagint, in which the Hebrew word Torah was expressed with the Greek word Nomos, which in turn has often been translated into English as “Law,” many of us have often assumed that Jews have been and are characteristically preoccupied with legalism, while we in the Church stress our freedom through the grace of God. As a result, we neither recognize how radical Paul was in his criticism of the Bible as he knew it, nor do we permit ourselves to be as open to the Spirit of God and of Christ in our times as Paul was in his. If we would dare to do either one or both of these, our homilies and sermons would become much more interesting to us, as well as to the people who are with us. Almost always, however, we prefer to remain “priests” rather than to become “prophets” of the Lord.

Luke 9:51-62

Study of the other Synoptic texts that are closely related to Luke 9:51-62 indicates how freely the inspired Lukan writer composed this account about Jesus heading toward Jerusalem from materials within Mark, “Q” materials and/or an early draft of Matthew, and the Septuagint. The result is a thoroughly theological account. With this text, the Lukan writer has the Lukan Jesus begin his theological journey to Jerusalem. The Lukan writer composed some theological statements about the Samaritans (only in vv. 52-56). Luke expanded upon the “Q” or Matthean Jesus’ harsh and un-Jewish demand that a disciple follow him immediately and “leave the dead (here intended to be the Jews who do not accept Jesus as the Christian Messiah) to bury their own dead.”

Here, as elsewhere, the Lukan writer was willing to present Jesus as inhumane and un-Jewish in order to express what the Lukan writer wanted to express theologically. Can we communicate the urgency of our task next Sunday and express ourselves theologically through a Jesus who is more historical than the Jesus of this portion of Luke’s Gospel, a Jesus who takes his message of hope to the city of Jerusalem, and through us to our own city, town, or rural area? We can if we will be open to the Spirit of God and of Christ as the Apostle Paul was.

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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