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Proper 18 | Ordinary Time 23 | Pentecost 15 (Cycle C)

Human reasoning and human relationships are ephemeral and transitory. Only through the wisdom given by God and through our relationships with God can we survive and live joyously, blessed by God.

Read More About - Proper 18 | Ordinary Time 23 | Pentecost 15 (Cycle C) »

Proper 17 | Ordinary Time 22 | Pentecost 14 (Cycle C)

he Matthew 5:3-12 and Luke 6:20-23 Beatitudes carried the thought of “O how happy” into a different area, the area of humbleness and of enduring persecution. An excellent sermon could be developed in which we would ask the members of the congregation at worship together whether in their experience they have found that the Beatitudes of Psalms 1 and 112 or the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-12 and Luke 6:20-23 conform more closely to reality as they perceive it. It would be helpful to the members of the worshiping congregations if we would ask them to think more than we usually do, rather than simply telling them what they should think. In order to accomplish this, our homilies/sermons should take on more aspects of dialogue rather than merely of monologue.

Read More About - Proper 17 | Ordinary Time 22 | Pentecost 14 (Cycle C) »

Proper 16 | Ordinary Time 21 | Pentecost 13 (Cycle C)

Sunday between August 21 and August 27 inclusive

In many of these texts the healing that God graciously offers as a gift from God is featured. It is important that we understand that this healing offered and given by God in these and in many other biblical texts is not limited to physical healing. It includes in most if not all instances mental healing, as well as spiritual healing, and in many instances social, political, and economic healing, the end of oppression for the one who is suffering.

As the Obama administration and the US Congress members struggle to improve the health care system in this nation and attempt to make such care accessible to all people here, we are aware that such care, as in the biblical texts, is not only physical, but is also mental, spiritual, social, political, and economic, designed to reduce and to remove the oppression of the ones who are suffering.

Psalm 103:1-8

In the poetic form in which faith in God and the blessing of God for all of the healing that God provides is expressed in this beautiful psalm, we see that this healing includes the diverse but related aspects of the forgiveness of sins, restoration from the imminence of death, and justice for all who are oppressed. In other words, the healing that God offers and provides encompasses physical, mental, spiritual, social, political, and economic healing.

We note that incorporated into this psalm is the favorite Israelite description of God as merciful and gracious, slow to anger and filled to the brim with steadfast, never-ending love, expressed joyously seven times within the Older Testament, here in Psalm 103:8, as well as in Exodus 34:6-7, Numbers 14:18, Jeremiah 32:18, Jonah 4:2, Nehemiah 9:17, and Nehemiah 9:31.

Psalm 71:1-6

As in many other poetic expressions of faith and of thankfulness for God’s gifts of compassion and healing, the healing and compassion of God is expressed here in Psalm 71 in what we often think to be broad, general, encompassing terminology. The terminology uses words such as deliver me, rescue me from those who are unjust and cruel, listen to my cry, and save me. Not only is the terminology broad in order to include a large number of persons who are afflicted; the broad terminology is used because of a realization that healing encompasses physical, mental, spiritual, social, political, and economic aspects of our lives.

Isaiah 58:9b-14

The text selected for our use here is the concluding portion of this incisive chapter 58 of the Isaiah traditions in which the service that God desires, reducing and removing the physical, mental, spiritual, social, political, and economic oppression of powerless people, is shown to be so much more important and pleasing to God than is religious fasting and other religious rituals. As in the psalms and elsewhere in our biblical canon, healing is understood here in broad, holistic terms.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

While the tasks to which the prophet Jeremiah is called in this text may seem to be primarily destructive, i.e., to pull up the “weeds” and to tear down the structures, to destroy that which is evil and to overthrow power structures, his work is also to be constructive, “to build and to plant.” We see in this that the destructive and the constructive elements of his call are actually closely related. The planting and building occurs as the oppressive power structures are torn down.

Hebrews 12:18-29

The series of nearly consecutive readings from the Epistle to the Hebrews continues here. As elsewhere in this document, it is written here that the old, which in this instance is the people who were with Moses at Sinai, has been replaced by the new, which here is Jesus revealed in Zion, the Heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God, a symbol of the presence of God in Christ Jesus, the arbitrator of a new covenant, whose sacrificial death accomplished all that is necessary for our salvation.

The anti-Jewish polemic in this and other segments of the Epistle to the Hebrews is not directed against Jews who were contemporary with the writer. Instead, the new salvation offered in Jesus as the great High Priest is contrasted with the older Israelite sacrificial system, the butchering of clean and inspected animals as a religious action, a system of animal sacrifice that was no longer very significant for most Jews in the Temple constructed by Herod and certainly irrelevant after the destruction of that Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. Some explanation of this to the congregation would be helpful.

Luke 13:10-17

The first four verses of this text are an excellent testimony of the broad aspects of the healing that God through Jesus perceived as the Christ provided in this instance for a Jewish woman, one of the fellow oppressed Jews of the Jesus of history. The woman was stooped over and was no longer able to stand erect because of eighteen years of severe physical, mental, spiritual, social, political, and economic oppression by the Roman occupational forces in Galilee and in Judea. In my The New Testament: A New Translation and Redaction (Lima, OH: Fairway, 2001) I translate these verses as follows:

And Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on a sabbath day. And there was a woman in the synagogue who had been weakened by the burden of severe Roman oppression for eighteen years, and she was stooped over and was not able to stand erect. And when Jesus saw her, he asked her to come to him and he said to her, “You are a beautiful woman! You have been set free from the burden with which they have oppressed you!” And he reached out his hands to strengthen her, and immediately she was able to stand erect again. And she gave praise to God.

This translation is designed to help us to see that the condition of the woman was closely related to the oppressive situation in which she and the other oppressed Jews lived at the time of the Jesus of history. Also, I purposely translated the Greek word ?ú???, the vocative singular of the feminine noun for “woman,” in this context not as the rather “cold” literal form of “Woman!” but with the affirming words, “You are a beautiful woman.” To God (Jesus as the Christ here), this woman was beautiful, even and especially in spite of her oppressed condition.

I cannot understand the reasoning of those who compiled The Revised Common Lectionary (Nashville: Abingdon, 1992) of including verses 14-17 in this reading. “Real” Jews, as opposed to the “literary” Jews portrayed in Luke 13:14-17, interpret the commandment “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy” in terms of “On this day there must be no labor that is intended to make money.” “A person should not even think and plan how to make money on this day.” For “real” Jews, the Sabbath is hallowed by loving acts of mercy and kindness such as the Jewish Jesus of history is portrayed as doing in the Luke 13:10-13 text. Jesus with the divine power of the Risen Christ was not providing comprehensive healing of the woman in order to make money. For whatever reason, the non-Jewish background Lukan writer was polemical rather than pastoral when the writer added verses 14-17. Verses 14-17 are not edifying. Even though the persons from the multitude of denominations of Christians from many nations included these four verses in The Revised Common Lectionary, we should not read these four verses in our worship services. We need additional lectionary revision and selection. The lectionary work has not been completed. We should press for and participate in further lectionary preparations and revisions.

Read More About - Proper 16 | Ordinary Time 21 | Pentecost 13 (Cycle C) »

Proper 15 | Ordinary Time 20 | Pentecost 12 (Cycle C)

A unifying motif in most of these texts selected for our use this coming weekend is that in view of the impending word of judgment from God, there is an urgent need for justice and righteousness on the earth. In some of these texts the word of judgment from God is fearful and awesome, a reason for great apprehension. In others the word of judgment from God is needed in order to break the power of the oppressors, both foreign oppressors and domestic oppressors. It is not so much the written, revealed word of God from the past as it is the dynamic, imminent word that is to come that is the concern of the writers of these texts.

Read More About - Proper 15 | Ordinary Time 20 | Pentecost 12 (Cycle C) »

Proper 14 | Ordinary Time 19 | Pentecost 11 (Cycle C)

Most of the texts selected for this occasion emphasize God’s desire to do good things for God’s people and for all people who will respond in a positive way to God. This emphasis is also present in the prayer for next Sunday in the words, “Almighty and Everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve.” Let us, therefore, examine these texts and see how this emphasis is expressed in them. Is this not what we also shall be proclaiming this coming weekend?

Read More About - Proper 14 | Ordinary Time 19 | Pentecost 11 (Cycle C) »

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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