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Proper 23 | Ordinary Time 28 | Pentecost 21 (Cycle C)

Sunday between October 9 and October 15 inclusive

The emphasis in most of the texts selected for us for next Sunday is on obedient, faithful response to God for all that God has done. Therefore, the service and the message for the service should also be a faithful, thankful response to God by all who participate in the worship events.

Psalm 111

This important Individual Hymn of Praise includes in brief form the traditional Israelite description of the Lord God as gracious and merciful, the faithful provider, the God of power and of justice, the one who gave the heritage of the Canaanite “nations” to Israel. The psalm reiterates the hope that the covenant of the Lord with David will continue forever and includes the wisdom theme that the fear of the Lord is the beginning or heart of wisdom.

Psalm 66:1-12

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

2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c

Naaman, the Syrian general who has just been cured of his leprosy, stands in front of Elisha and expresses his belief that there is no God in all of the earth except the God of Israel who rules in Israel. Therefore, in the verses that follow this text Naaman requests permission from Elisha to take back with him to Syria two mule loads of Israelite soil on which Naaman will construct an altar at which to worship the Lord God of Israel, for now Naaman will worship no other God.

Israelites in exile in Babylon where this story was told and perhaps originated faced the same situation as that of Naaman. How could they worship the Lord, God as perceived in Israel, in a foreign land? Would the Lord forgive them if they, like Naaman in the portion of 2 Kings 5 that follows our text, ask that the Lord pardon them if they would be compelled to worship a different god (Marduk) in a different land (Babylon)? The answer that this Naaman story provides is simply, “Go in peace.” They would have to answer those questions themselves. However, they could perhaps worship the Lord (Adonai), God as perceived in Israel, in a foreign land, and the Lord perhaps would forgive them if they asked the Lord to pardon them.

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

In the letter that Jeremiah is said to have sent to the leaders among the Israelite exiles in Babylon, Jeremiah, in the name of the Lord, told them to settle down, marry and have children. They should even pray to the Lord God of Israel for the welfare of the Babylonian cities in which they would live. It is implied that they should be faithful in response to their Lord God while they were to do whatever was necessary in order for them to survive. How shall we express this idea next Sunday?

2 Timothy 2:8-15

Regardless of whether these words were composed by the Apostle Paul or by an admirer of Paul later to express what was thought that Paul would have said under these circumstances, this text is an eloquent call for faithfulness to Jesus as the Christ. The hymn (vv. 11-13) defines the mainline Christian position over against Gnosticizing Christians by maintaining against them in 2:11 that we should live with Christ and that our resurrection has not yet occurred. It provides encouragement to followers of Jesus to endure. It affirms that even if we do not believe in what Jesus is acclaimed to be, Jesus as the Christ remains faithful (as God remains faithful), for he cannot deny what he is. We, therefore, also are to be obedient, faithful, and thankful in our response to God.

Luke 17:11-19

Here again the inspired Lukan writer provided a story that is so vividly told that we can practically “see” every detail in it. The Lukan Jesus is near the end of his theological journey toward Jerusalem. He is passing theologically between the Galilean Jews and the Samaritans. All of them (perhaps symbolically represented by the number 10) are unclean. They stand at a distance, acclaim Jesus as their Master, and ask for his mercy. When they are obedient to Jesus, they are cleansed. Only one of them, however, when he sees that he has been cleansed, abandons the traditional way of going to show himself to the priests for certification of his cleanliness, and returns to Jesus, giving glory to God and falling at the feet of Jesus in thankfulness. The nine who go the Jewish way, even though they have been cleansed by Jesus, are compared unfavorably with the single Samaritan who returned immediately to thank Jesus and to praise God.

The extent to which this account can be traced back to the Jesus of history is uncertain. It is probable, as Hans-Dieter Betz suggests in “The Cleansing of the Ten Lepers” (Luke 17:11-19), Journal of Biblical Literature 90 (1971, pp. 314-328), that the identity as a Samaritan of the one who returned to Jesus to praise God was given at the point in the transmission of the account when the mission of the followers of Jesus to the Samaritans became prominent, and that the resulting anti-Jewish polemic is an additive that stems from the period of 80-90 CE when the breach between the developing Church and the Synagogue became irreparable. As G.B. Caird notes in The Gospel of St. Luke (Baltimore: Penguin, 1963, p. 195), for the Lukan writer the most attractive portion of the story was that the appreciative Samaritan showed up his Jewish fellow sufferers. As also typically in the parables peculiar to Luke, the characters mentioned first are observant Jews who are discredited, while the ones mentioned last (the tenth here) are types of those who follow Jesus and are acclaimed. We see that both Luke and the Fourth Gospel praise the Samaritans and renounce the Jews, but in different ways. The positive emphasis in this Lukan text and in all of the texts selected for this occasion is the obedient, faithful, thankful response to God for forgiveness, life, healing, and salvation. That is what we are called to proclaim.

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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