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Proper 9 | Ordinary Time 14 | Pentecost 7 (Cycle C)

Psalm 30

This beautiful Individual Hymn of Praise (considered also in Proper 5 above) glorifies the Lord God for bringing the nephesh (the life, the animating principle) of the psalmist back from sheol (the abode of the dead). In its original setting, this psalm acclaims Adonai for providing a resuscitation of a life that has lost all of its spirit and all of its power, like a rubber tire that is flat, not a resurrection from death to life in which there was no longer a tire at all. The restoration to life proclaimed in this psalm is a manifestation of the power and of the love shown by Adonai. It is intended to encourage people to respond to Adonai with praise and thanksgiving.

Psalm 66:1-9

As in many other texts within the Hebrew Bible, here also God is praised for delivering the ancient Israelites from their Egyptian oppressors by parting the sea so that the escaping Israelites could pass through it on dry land. The Exodus is remembered as one among many instances in which God is said to have used God’s power to keep the enemies of the Israelites away from Israel’s borders, to prevent other nations from oppressing them.

2 Kings 5:1-14

The prayer of Naaman to the Lord God of Israel was persistent not in the sense that the one who was asking for help from the Lord asked repeatedly over a long period of time, but in the sense that so many different people persisted in the prayer process in Naaman’s behalf. The process was begun by the little Israelite slave girl in this story, and continued with Naaman himself, Naaman’s king, Elisha, and Naaman’s servants.

For the original intent of the story, we should study the entire chapter (2 Kings 5:1-27). If we read only the first half of the story, we should focus our attention on Naaman’s desire to be healed and on the persistence of the various people involved. We see that the chain of action would have been broken if any one of the characters involved had not participated in the prayer sequence. This provides an excellent resource for us to consider in our own prayer activities and in our messages about prayers to God this coming weekend.

Isaiah 66:10-14

Although Jerusalem is not fruitful now, the Lord will cause her again to bring forth children and to provide for them abundantly as a nursing mother, not only for her new babies but for her older children as well. The indignation of the Lord is against the enemies of the people of the Lord. Their enemies shall no longer oppress the servants of the Lord.

Galatians 6:(1-6) 7-16

The guidelines for life that are appropriate for followers of Jesus that were provided earlier in this letter are continued in chapter 6. In order that 6:5 may not seem to contradict 6:2, they should be translated carefully in order to distinguish them and their different situations from each other. We might suggest “Be helpful to one another” in 6:2 and “For each person will be responsible individually” in 6:5.

It is possible that the Judaizing Christians were circumcising male non-Jewish background followers of Jesus and insisting that they be circumcised, in part at least, so that they would be afforded the same limited protection that was available to Jewish males by the Roman oppressors at various times during the first century. This may be what Paul meant when he wrote “in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ” (v. 12). We have within Paul’s letter to the Galatians and elsewhere in Paul’s letters only Paul’s side of the issue. We have nothing comparable in the Newer Testament texts in which the rationale of the Judaizing Christians is presented. Paul apparently wanted to die as Jesus had died, if necessary, at the hands of the Roman oppressors, to be united with Jesus in his death, in order that Paul might be glorified with Jesus in the cross and in the resurrection from the dead. For Paul, God definitely identified God’s self with Jesus and with the followers of Jesus who were oppressed as Jesus had been oppressed.

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Comparison of the Synoptic texts indicates that the Lukan writer here as elsewhere used materials from Mark (the Mark 6:7-13 sending of the twelve disciples two-by-two with authority over the unclean spirits), from “Q” material or from an early draft of Matthew (for most of the content of this text) and from the Septuagint translation of the Israelite Scriptures (Numbers 11:16-17 for the number of those who would extend Jesus’ work just as the seventy had become assistants to Moses). The number seventy, or 72 as some important early manuscripts of the Greek text of Luke 10 have it, is used here only by Luke. The dependence of the Lukan writer on the Septuagint translation of the Israelite Scriptures for material to be used with inspired creativity throughout this Third Gospel suggests that “seventy” was the number that the Lukan writer used and that some who later made copies of the Luke 10 text modified the number to 72.

As the literary creativity of the inspired Lukan writer becomes more apparent to us, the likelihood increases that the “Q” materials or Matthean material and the Lukan composition actually depict circumstances not prior to but after the death of Jesus. It was after the death of Jesus that followers of Jesus proclaiming their message within the regions of Galilee about Jesus as the Christian Messiah who is one with God the Father and the Son of God felt that they were going out “as lambs in the midst of wolves” with little success. Their situation was considerably different from that of the proclamation of the Jesus of history as a Jewish Messiah figure talking about God and the coming rule of God, giving hope to the oppressed Jewish people in Galilee before Jesus was crucified.

The expressions of power over demons and of the fall of Satan from his position of authority may be subtle cryptograms, hidden transcripts of hope and liberation in Luke 10:17-20. As such, they would be communicating assurance to oppressed followers of Jesus that through Jesus raised from the dead as the Risen Christ they are given power by God over the Satanic Roman state and its representatives whom God through Jesus as the Christ will soon topple from their positions of authority forever.

This Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 text is permeated by a sense of urgency. The message of the coming rule of God must be proclaimed in spite of all dangers. Apparently the Jesus of history had pointed very effectively to the Lord God and to the necessity of acclaiming the Lord God and not Caesar as the one who should be the ruler in the lives of the people around him. Just as followers of Jesus pointed to Jesus the Risen Christ as the one who had himself pointed to the Lord God and to the necessity of acclaiming the Lord God rather than Caesar as the one who should rule in the lives of the people around them, so let us also acclaim Jesus as the Risen Christ and God this coming weekend and every day.

It is a challenge for us to find ways in which we can apply these texts selected for our use on Proper 9/Ordinary Time 14/Seventh Sunday after Pentecost to the concerns of people in the congregations in which we live and serve many of whom will expect references to the Fourth of July within our Christian worship services this coming weekend. Our biblical texts, including the texts selected for our use this coming weekend, express the mercy of God for the oppressed and the opposition of God to the oppressors, whether they be Canaanite, Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, or within the Israelite or early Christian power structures. If we make applications this coming weekend from these biblical texts to the Fourth of July and to American history and to American Civil Religion, we must be critical of and oppose oppression wherever it occurs, even within our own Church, nation, and culture. We must remember that in the biblical texts it is the Lord God, not any nation or secular power, including our own, who is Supreme.

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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