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Proper 21 | Ordinary Time 26 | Pentecost 19, Cycle C (2016)

September 25, 2016


All we need. The Sunday invites sermons celebrating that Christians have been richly blessed by God, so much so that all the elements needed for a good life have been provided (Providence, Justification by Grace, and Social Ethics).

Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16
This is a Wisdom Psalm that is a meditation on God as the protector of the faithful. Those who live in the shelter and shadow/shade [tsel] of God will call Yahweh their refuge [machseh], fortress [metsudah], and God [elohim] (v. 1-2). Reference to shelter or refuge probably connotes the protective area of the sanctuary in the Jerusalem Temple. The shadow refers to God’s wings (v. 4), an image to connote God as an eagle protecting the young (cf. Deuteronomy 32:10-11). God will deliver us and cover us, giving refuge, the psalmist sings (vv. 3-4). We will then fear no terror or pestilence (vv. 5-6). The psalm concludes with a divine oracle in the first person (probably spoken by a priest or temple prophet) that reiterates how God will deliver/protect and even give long life and salvation [yeshuah, safety] to those who call on him and love him (vv. 14-16).

Application: This psalm provides an occasion to preach on how God gives refuge and safety to us in dealing with the turmoil of life. Attention might be given to salvation as safety (Justification by Grace, Providence, Eschatology).


Psalm 146
This psalm, like the next four, is a hymn praising God for his help. It begins with praise to the Lord [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 (vv. 6-9). This is an attestation of the power of God. 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.

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15
Again we note that this book is a collection of prophecies of a late seventh or early sixth century BC prophet of Judah from the reigns of Josiah through the era of the Babylonian Captivity. He dictated these prophecies to his aide Baruch. Some of the prophet’s criticism of the house of David and the temple may relate to his having as an ancestor one of David’s high priests, Abiathar, who lost control of the temple and was finally banished (1 Kings 2:26-27). Three sources of the book have been identified: 1) An authentic poetic strand; 2) Biographic prose; and 3) Deuteronomic redaction. The interplay of these strands suggests that the final editors see Jeremiah’s prophecies as relevant in a new context.

This lesson reports Jeremiah’s purchase of land in Anathoth (less than ten miles northeast of Jerusalem) during Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem in 587 BC. Chronologically the account should follow chapter 37. Its placement emphasizes the validity of the oracles immediately preceding, which prophesied the restoration of Judah.

The background of the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar on Jerusalem is provided. It is noted that Jeremiah had been confined in the court of the guard by Judah’s king Zedekiah (vv. 1-3a). This incarceration was probably the result of his attempting to leave the city when the siege of Jerusalem was temporarily lifted. Jeremiah hears the word of the Lord (v. 6). His cousin Hanamel would come to him and tell the prophet that he should buy Hanamel’s field in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption [geullah, allowing more distant family members to buy land that it might remain in the possession of the extended family) is his (vv. 7-8). Details on the price of the purchase are provided (vv. 9-11). Reference is made to the prophet’s secretary Baruch (see 36:4), who held the deed of purchase. He is told by Jeremiah to put this deed in a jar in order that it may last a long time (vv. 12-14). Jeremiah notes that the God of Israel reveals that houses and vineyards will again be in the land [erets] (v. 15). This is a promise of restoration.

Application: Sermons on this lesson might advocate for a wise Christian Social Ethic drawing on the best insights of human wisdom and natural law in order to achieve God’s aims as best we can discern them in finite ways. There is an element of planning for the future that God has given us what we need for the future, which might be developed (Providence and Eschatology).


Amos 6:1a, 4-7
The Complementary First Lesson is again drawn from a collection of teaching and traditions concerning a prophet who may have written during the prosperous reign of Jeroboam II in Israel (786 BC – 746 BC). As we have already noted, though from Judah, Amos did his prophesying in the Northern Kingdom, but even after exile may have returned to Judah to write his proclamation. Some scholars contend that his addresses were gathered and combined by others to form the book.

This lesson is a condemnation of Israel’s complacent self-indulgence and their wallowing in luxury. The prophet makes clear that those Israelites who feel themselves secure in their false confidence, who lie in luxury and self-indulgence will be the first whom God will send into exile. Reference to Zion in Jerusalem suggests that this condemnation may have been addressed to Judah as well as to Israel (vv. 1, 4). Likewise this will be the fate of those who spend time in music (like David), who drink wine from bowls, but are not grieved over the ruin/breaking of Joseph (vv. 5-7). A clear focus of the prophecy is directed against the upper class.

Application: This version of the First Lesson offers occasions to condemn our society of greed and its forgetfulness of the poor. As such, it also in turn encourages consideration of the kind of society that God wants, one that cares for the poor (Social Ethics).

1 Timothy 6:6-19
We are reminded again that along with 2 Timothy through Titus, this is one of Pastoral Letters, concerned with leadership offices and pastoral oversight. Several features make this and the other Pastoral Letters to be not likely compatible with the claim to have been written by Paul. Key Pauline themes regarding justification by faith are missing, though the author may have been acquainted with other Pauline letters. Since the author is also apparently aware of the book of Acts, this letter may not have been written until late in the first century.

Although purportedly addressed to Timothy, a young convert to Christianity and companion of Paul in his travels (Acts 16:1; Romans 16:21; 1 Corinthians 4:17), most of the letter is a general teaching targeting an entire congregation and readers in various congregations. Besides providing guidance on problems of church administration, the Epistle also opposes false teaching of a speculative type which may have been related to Gnosticism.

This text is a portion of the author’s final directions. There is great gain in godliness [eusebeia, peity] combined with contentment, he claims (v. 6). No doubt in dialogue with contemporary Wisdom literature (John 1:21) it is noted that we brought nothing into the world and can take nothing out of it (v. 7). If we have food and clothing, we will be content [arkesthesometha, satisfied] with these (v. 8). Those who want to be rich will fall into temptation and are trapped by harmful desires (v. 9). Love of money is the root of evil; in eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from faith (v. 10). Readers are urged to shun things, pursuing righteousness [dikaiosune], godliness, faith, and love [agape] (v. 11). They are also exhorted to fight the good fight of faith and take hold of eternal life [zoe] to which they were called and make the good confession [homologiav, probably in Baptism] (v. 12).

The verses which follow may be taken from an early Christian liturgy. In the presence of God who gives life to all things and Christ Jesus who made the good confession before Pilate, readers are charged to keep the commandments [entole] without spot or blame until Christ is manifest (vv. 13-14). Christ the King of kings will be manifest at the right time [kairos], we are assured (v. 15). He alone has immortality [athanasia] and lives in unapproachable light [phos], whom no one has ever seen (v. 16). As for those who are rich, they are commanded not to be haughty or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who provides us with everything for our judgment. They should be rich in good works, ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future (vv. 17-19).

Application: This text can occasion sermons on how to use money correctly, as a tool to spread the love of God. We have all we need. Sanctification and Social Ethics are sermon agendas.

Luke 16:19-31
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 recounts Jesus’ parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, an account with no parallels.

The story is based on an Egyptian tale of a god becoming the child of earthly parents. He shows them hades and paradise. After the funeral of a rich man the elegant furnishings of his tomb are given to a poor man. The text illustrates Luke’s partiality for the poor, that they must receive table fellowship (Eduard Schweizer, The Good News According to Luke, p. 262). Jesus describes the rich man dressed in fine clothes and feasting every day (v. 19). (The purple color worn by the rich man was a cloth available only to the rich in the Ancient Near East.) At the rich man’s gate was a poor man Lazarus, covered with sores. To eat, he would take the food falling from the rich man’s table. The dogs licked his sores (vv. 20-21). Both men die. The poor man was carried by the angels [aggelos, messengers] to be with Abraham (v. 22). In hades the rich man was tormented. He looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus. The rich man calls to Abraham, asking him to let Lazarus dip his finger in water to cool his tongue (vv. 23-24). Abraham responds that now Lazarus is comforted for he received evil during his lifetime. Just the opposite for the rich man. Besides, Abraham reports, a great chasm between him and Abraham has been fixed (vv. 25-26). The rich man pleads that Lazarus be sent to warn his brothers (vv. 27-28). Abraham responds that the brothers have Moses and the prophets (v. 29). The rich man pleads that if someone comes from the dead they will repent [metanoeo] (v. 30). Jesus responds that if they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, people will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead (v. 31). The last comment seems to refer to the Easter Resurrection.

Application: In this lesson, we have the seeds for sermons reminding us that we have all that we need in the Good News of the gospel (Justification by Grace) and work for justice (Social Ethics), for the overall vision of life is already present in the Easter miracle (Eschatology).

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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