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Proper 9 | Ordinary Time 14 | Pentecost 7, Cycle C (2016)

Living the faith. Sanctification is the most prominent theme of these texts.

Psalm 30
This thanksgiving for healing (or restoration) is a psalm attributed to David at the dedication of the temple. This superscription may indicate that the psalm was used at the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) after the cleansing of the Jerusalem Temple by Judas Maccabeus in 164 BC. We have previously noted it is unlikely that David is the author of the psalms attributed to him (Brevard Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, p. 512). In fact some scholars conclude that references to David in the psalms may be a way of using him to represent the inner life of all his subjects, and so of all the faithful (Ibid., p. 521). In this case, the psalm is best understood as a mandate and model for giving thanks.

The psalm begins with praise to Yahweh for drawing up the psalmist and not letting his enemies rejoice over him. For Yahweh Elohim has healed (vv. 1-2). He has been brought up from Sheol (the place of the dead) and restored to life (v. 3). The congregation is invited to join in giving thanks, for the Lord’s anger is but a moment and his favor [ratson] for a lifetime (vv. 4-5). The psalmist testifies that before enduring his trial he had felt secure. Reference to God hiding his face [panim] is an image connoting withdrawing favor (vv. 6-7). Then with illness, he turns to God, pleading for him to be gracious (vv. 8-10), and God restores health so mourning (signified by the sackcloth he wears) turns to dancing and leads to the faithful to praise [zamar] him (vv. 11-12).

Application: Sermons on this psalm will give thanks and praise to God for his graciousness, reminding the faithful that such gratitude is the Christian way of life (Sanctification, Justification by Grace, Providence).


Psalm 66:1-9
This is an Elohistic liturgy of praise and thanksgiving. All the earth is exhorted to make a joyful noise of praise to God (vv. 1-2, 4). His deeds are said to be awesome, and his enemies cringe before his power (v. 3). What God has done is said to be awesome (v. 5). Prior to this verse and after verse 7, musical interludes (designated by the term Selah) were included.

Reference is made to the Israelites’ crossing of the Red Sea (v. 6). God is said to rule by his might/power [geburah] forever, keeping watch on the nations (v. 7). All people are urged to bless [barak] the Lord and let the sound of his praise [tehillah] be heard, for he has kept the people alive (vv. 8-9).

Application: This alternative psalm also affords an opportunity to revel in God’s power (Providence), but especially to make clear that Christian life is a life of praise and thanks (Sanctification).

2 Kings 5:1-14
We are reminded again that this book and 1 Kings were originally one book, providing an account of Israel’s history form the death of David through Jehoiachim’s release from a Babylonian prison. There is some speculation that these texts are the product of the Deuteronomistic Reform of Josiah in the seventh century BC, but later revised after the Babylonian Exile in 587 BC. Second Kings recounts the history from the reign of Ahaziah (850-849 BC) to the Assyrian destruction of Samaria (721 BC), as well as the story of Judah from the fall of Israel through the destruction of Jerusalem, ending with the elevation of King Jehoichim in exile (chapters 18-25). Not surprisingly, the book largely follows Deuteronimistic themes regarding loyalty to Yahweh alone and a criticism of all the kings of the Northern Kingdom for sanctioning the worship of God in sanctuaries outside Jerusalem. Yet the promise of the eternality of the Davidic covenant is said to remain secure. Throughout the book, prophets (especially Elijah, Elisha, Jonah, and Isaiah) rise up to proclaim God’s will.

This lesson is a report of the healing from leprosy of Naaman, who was a much-respected commander of the army of the king of Aram (located in modern Syria). On one of the raids the Arameans had taken captive a girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. The girl told his wife that if Naaman were with a prophet from Samaria he could be healed (vv. 2-3). Naaman informs his king, and the king of Aram sends Naaman with a letter and an exorbitant gift to the king of Israel (750 pounds of silver and 150 pounds of gold) (vv. 4-5). When Israel’s king received the letter, he tears his clothes in anguish, fearful of a possible invasion by a stronger power (v. 7). When Elisha heard this he sent a message to the king, telling the king to send Naaman to him so that he may see that Elisha is a true prophet (v. 8). Naaman arrives at Elisha’s house and is told by a messenger from Elisha to wash seven times in the Jordan River (vv. 9-10). Seven, a number associated with completeness, is of course also number associated with rituals for the Hebrew mind. This angers Naaman, feeling Elisha should have met him and invoked the name [shem, renown] of his God to cure the leprosy (v. 11). He sees no reason why he could not have bathed in the waters in Syria (v. 12). Servants approach him, addressing him as father [ab, a term usually employed by disciple addressing his master], noting that if Elisha had commanded something difficult to be healed, would not Naaman have done so (v. 13). In response, Naaman complies with the directive and is healed (v. 14).

Application: This version of the First Lesson should give rise to sermons proclaiming the universal significance of God’s saving work (that it is for everyone), and this might lead to discussions of the significance of the Atonement, as well as the implications of this universal thrust for our attitudes towards others who are different from us (Sanctification).


Isaiah 66:10-14
It is well known that this book is actually the product of two or three distinct literary traditions. The first 39 chapters are the work of the historical prophet who proclaimed a message to Jerusalem and the Southern Kingdom of Judah from 742 BC to 701 BC, a period during which the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been annexed by the Assyrian Empire. Chapters 40-66 emerged in the later period of the Babylonian Exile in the sixth century BC. A hypothesized third section (chapters 56-66) of the book perhaps written by Second Isaiah or by one of his disciples in view of the close stylistic similarities to chapters 40 on begins at the conclusion of the Babylonian Captivity and is likely written after the restoration of exiled Judah, expressing some disappointment about what has transpired since the Exiles’ return. This lesson, the concluding oracles of the book, is the work of this last set of editors.

Hearers are directed to rejoice [sameach] with the restored Jerusalem (referred to in the female gender). All who love her are to rejoice (v. 10). The restored city will nurse and satisfy us, as we drink from her bosom with delight (v. 11). Yahweh promises to extend her prosperity (v. 12). The Lord compares himself to a mother [em, ancestress] comforting a child, so he will comfort the faithful (v. 13). This flourishing makes clear to all that the Lord is with his servants [ebed] and his wrath is great against his enemies (v. 14).

Application: This Complementary Version of the First Lesson offers sermons on the feminine aspects of God and the Church (interpreted as the New Jerusalem). Preachers will help hearers to recognize that with a comforting God like this (Justification by Church) and community support (Church) the Christian life can only be one of rejoicing (Sanctification).

Galatians 6:(1-6) 7-16
It is good to be reminded again the origins of this book as a polemical letter written by Paul to a church he had founded. Its aim is to affirm that Gentiles need not become Jews in order to become Christian. In this lesson Paul offers further reflections on the implications of Christian freedom for Christian life along with some admonitions.

Paul begins by noting that if anyone is detected in transgression, those who have received the Spirit should restore such a sinner in gentleness/meekness [praotes] (v. 1). Readers are charged to bear each other’s burdens and in so doing fulfill the law [nomos] of Christ (presumably love) (v. 2). Those who are nothing [medeis] and think themselves something deceive themselves (v. 3). All must test their own work, lest it become a cause for pride (v. 4). All must carry their own loads [phortion] (v. 5). Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher (v. 6). Paul then urges readers not to be deceived, for God is not mocked and we reap what we sow. To sow the flesh leads to corruption. To sow the Spirit [pneuma] leads to eternal life [zoe aionion] (vv. 7-8). Consequently, we should not grow weary in doing right, for we will reap at harvest time if we do not give up. Thus we should work for the good [agathos] of all, especially for those of the household [oikeious] of faith (vv. 9-10).

The apostle next notes his signature (v. 11). He adds that those who want to make a good showing in the flesh [sarx] try to compel circumcision so that they may not be persecuted for Christ’s cross [stauros] (v. 12). But even the circumcised do not obey the law (v. 13). Paul says he would never boast, save in the cross of Christ by which the world has been crucified [stauroo], and he to the world [kosmos] (v. 14). Circumcision or uncircumcision is nothing, he claims. A new creation [kainos ktistis] is everything (v. 15). Paul understands salvation as God’s remaking the world (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).

Application: This lesson encourages sermons describing the Christian life and its dependence on God for all good — an insight that makes life/creation look new and the things of the world and its demands less attractive (Sanctification and Realized Eschatology).

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
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 the mission of the seventy commissioned by Jesus and their return to him. Only Matthew contains some parallels (9:37-38; 10:7-16, 40; 11:20-27), and they appear as in the case of Luke in connection with commissioning seventy to the work of mission.

Jesus appoints seventy and sends them in pairs to other towns he intends to visit (v. 1). (Seventy is the number of nations according to Genesis 10. It is also the number of elders [zagen] chosen by Moses from the Twelve Tribes [Exodus 24:1; Numbers 11:16].) The harvest [therismos] is said by Jesus to be plentiful, but the laborers few (v. 2). Harvest likely refers here to the gathering together of Israel (cf. Isaiah 27:12). He claims to send out the seventy like lambs [arnus] to wolves. They are to carry no bags or sandals, greeting no one on the way lest it cause delay (vv. 3-4). When entering houses they are to wish them peace [eirene]. If not one responds with peace, the peace offered by Jesus’ followers will return to them (vv. 5-6). His followers are instructed to remain in the same house each eating and drinking what is brought, for a laborer deserves pay (v. 7).

When entering a town, the seventy are to eat what is received and cure the sick, announcing God’s coming kingdom [basileia] (vv. 8-9). (Jesus is breaking with Jewish dietary laws with this injunction, a theme most in keeping with Luke’s emphasis on the universal mission of the Church [Acts 1:8].) But if not welcomed, they are to leave, even wiping off the dust of the town from their feet in protest. They are to announce in these cases the coming kingdom (vv. 10-11).

Later Jesus notes that whoever listens to the seventy listen to him, and likewise their rejection is a rejection of him (v. 16). The seventy complete their mission with joy [chara], reporting that demons [daimonia] submit in Jesus’ name [onoma] (v. 17). This suggests the dawning of God’s kingdom. Jesus says he saw Satan falling from heaven and has given them authority [exousian] to tread on snakes and over all the power of the enemy [echthros]. They will not be hurt (vv. 18-19). These are also clear signs of the end. He cautions them against rejoicing that the spirits [pneumata] submit to them, but notes that their names are written in heaven (v. 20).

Application: This account encourages sermons proclaiming the nature of God’s call, how his servants are equipped and the nature of their authority. Sanctification and Ministry (including the Priesthood of All Believers) and Eschatology (that such a Ministry foreshadows a new day) should be emphasized.

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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