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Lent 3, Cycle C (2016)

Turn around and bear fruit! God will see to it. Most of the texts proclaim the need for repentance (Sanctification) along with a confidence that God will change us (Justification by Grace).

Psalm 63:1-8
The Psalm is a personal lament, a prayer for deliverance from personal enemies. Though attributed to David when he was in the wilderness (cf. 1 Samuel 23:14-15), Elohim is used to name God rather than Yahweh in this Psalm. The psalmist claims to thirst for God. He is sought in the sanctuary, where his power [oz] and glory [kabod, weight or honor] can be beheld (vv. 1-2). God’s steadfast love [chesed, lovingkindness] is said to be better than life [chaiyim]. Consequently the psalmist will praise him, lifting up hands to call his name [shem] (vv. 3-4). With satisfied soul the psalmist joyfully praises God, for he has been a help, with a right hand that upholds him. Reference to being in the shadow of Elohim’s wings [kanaph] may suggest the image of God as an eagle protecting its young, as kanaph may also translate “protection”(vv. 5-8).

Application: The Psalm affords opportunity to reflect on how God delivers us from tough times, that he can be found in worship and as a result of such protection the enemies will be overcome and we will seek God. Justification by Grace, Providence, Atonement, and Sanctification are themes associated with this text.

Isaiah 55:1-9
This lesson is derived from Second Isaiah, the second of three distinct literary traditions that comprise the book and were edited into one after the Hebrew people had returned from exile in Babylon in the second half of the sixth century BC. This lesson, then, does not seem to have been written by the historical prophet to Judah for whom the book is named. Rather, it was likely generated soon after the conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587-586 BC.

We read a hymn of joy and triumph celebrating the approaching consummation of Israel’s restoration in the sixth century BC near the end of the Babylonian Captivity. An invitation is first made to a banquet (reminiscent of the banquet hosted by Wisdom in Proverbs 9:3-6). Everyone who is thirsty and poor is invited and challenge is issued to those who spend money that does not feed us. We should only eat what is good, we are advised (vv. 1-2). Reference is made to the everlasting covenant [berith] with David, which the nations shall note because Yahweh has glorified the people. A renewal of this covenant seems promised (vv. 3-5).

A call for repentance is next issued, for when the people return to the Lord he may have mercy [racham] on them (v. 7). Yahweh proceeds to remark that his thoughts [machashebeth] and ways [derek] are not the ways and thoughts of the people (vv. 8-9).

Application: Sermons in this lesson might proclaim our sin, the need for repentance, and the confidence we can have in God because he forgives and keeps working on us for the better. Justification by Grace and Sanctification are proclaimed.

1 Corinthians 10:1-13
The lesson is taken from one of Paul’s authentic letters, written from Ephesus prior to his Epistle to the Romans, to a church he had established (Acts 18:1-11). Relations had become strained with the church. The letter aims to address doctrinal and ethical problems disturbing the Corinthian church. This is a lesson devoted to a warning against overconfidence.

Paul first reminds the Corinthians that the Hebrew ancestors were all under the cloud (the presence of God [Exodus 13:21]) and passed through the sea and were “baptized” [baptizo] by these means (vv. 1-2; cf. Exodus 14:22). They also are said to have eaten and drank the same spiritual food and drink (vv. 3-4; Exodus 16:4, 17:6; Numbers 20:7-11). The rock [petra] from which they drank is said to be Christ. The references here to passing through the sea along with the eating and drinking are to imply that they received something like Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Despite the favored status of the ancient Hebrews, Paul reports God’s displeasure with most of them, striking them down in the wilderness (v. 5; Numbers 14:24-30). This is an example for the Corinthians to deter their desire for evil (v. 6).

Paul then urges the Corinthians to shun idolatry and sexual immorality, not to put Christ to the test and not to complain as many ancient Hebrews in the wilderness did (vv. 7-10). The evil that happened to them is an example written to instruct us before the Lord’s return (v. 11). If we think we are standing, Paul adds, then we must watch out lest we fall (v. 12). No testing overtakes us, he says, that is not common to all. For God is faithful and will not let us be tested [peirazo, tried or tempted] beyond our strength. The testing provides the way out for endurance (v. 13).

Application: This is a lesson for proclaiming our Sin and need for repentance, but the understanding that we are totally depending on God if we are to be turned around (Justification by Grace).

Luke 13:1-9
We are again reminded 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, unique to Luke, reports Jesus’ teaching on repentance and his parable of the fig tree. It begins with his receiving reports that some Galileans had been slain by Pilate while worshiping in the Jerusalem Temple (v. 1). He responds, in contrast to prevailing Jewish attitudes of the day by contending that those slain were no worse sinners (v. 2). His hearers must repent [metanoeo], he proclaims, or they will perish like those Galileans (v. 3). He makes the same point in reference to victims of a collapse of tower in the Siloam section of Jerusalem (vv. 4-5). “Jesus rules out the dogma that particular indiscretions lead to particular disasters” (Eduard Schweizer, The Good News According to Luke, p. 219). In the parable, which follows, Jesus relates a tale of a man with a fig tree which had borne no fruit (v. 6). The reference here is clearly to Israel. The tree’s owner instructs his gardener to cut it down (v. 7). But the gardener pleas for time to fertilize it with manure [koprian], cutting it down if it fails to yield fruit [karpos] (vv. 8-9).

Application: Sermons on this lesson will proclaim our Sin and the need for repentance but with the understanding that we are totally dependent on God if we are to be turned around (Justification by Grace, Sanctification, and Providence).

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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