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Wrestling with the Word, episode 27: Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B (June 28, 2009) June 20, 2009

Posted by fostermccurley in Wrestling With The Word podcast.
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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
God calls us to love our neighbors in a variety of ways. People call out to the Lord for help on a daily basis, and God’s response so often requires our hands or our feet or our quiet presence. Sometimes the neighbors who cry out are the people close at hand like next-door-neighbors, and sometimes they are people far off. Sometimes when we are off to serve one neighbor, another one interrupts with needs of his or her own. Jesus’ ministry was like that, too. Interruptions can became opportunities for ministering.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 27: Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B.

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Psalm 30
The psalm is a hymn of praise used by an individual after a lament (or series of them) had been offered. Characteristics of the lament are many, above all “you hid your face; I was dismayed” (v. 7). The absence of the Lord caused the worshiper to “cry for help” (vss. 2, 8), a cry to which the Lord responded. The effects of the Lord’s ultimate intervention appear in virtually every verse by way of contrasts. The result of the deliverance is not only the individual’s praise but the call on the community of the faithful to join in the joyful song.

The NRSV has provided its own superscription to the psalm, indicating an individual’s “Thanksgiving for Recovery from Grave Illness.” The Hebrew Bible (and thus RSV) read “A Song at the dedication of the Temple.” That reference to the Festival of Chanukah (celebrating the purification of the Temple after the desecration by Antiochus IV Epiphanes from 167-164 B.C.) was obviously added at a later date to an existing individual song of praise.

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Lamentations 3:22-33
In spite of disaster all around, the faithfulness of God startles us anew each day and without ceasing.

Context
In our Christian Bible, the Book of Lamentations follows the Book of Jeremiah on the basis of 2 Chron. 35:25. In the Hebrew Bible it is positioned between Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes) and Esther. Authorship by Jeremiah is not likely, though the material derives from the period of the exiles of 597 and 587 B.C. Chapter 3 is a personal reflection of tragedy and hope in the midst of the national crises that the first two chapters attribute to the Lord. The five chapters comprise five laments that appear in Hebrew as acrostics. Uniquely, chapter 3 uses the same letter of the alphabet (at times the same word) for 3 couplets of each stanza. The assigned pericope begins without the description of the previous verse that defines “hope” (v. 21).

Key Words
Vss. 22-24.  chasdê … chadašîm … chelqî = “acts of covenant loyalty … new things … my portion”:  Each line begins with the Hebrew letter chet.

V. 22.  chasdê YHWH = “the Lord’s acts of covenant loyalty”: The rendering “steadfast love” (RSV, NRSV) misses the action and the specificity of the word. Chesed is the faithfulness that exists within a covenant relationship. When used in the plural, as here, the word means the acts carried out to manifest that faithfulness.

V. 24.  chelqî YHWH = “the Lord is my portion”:  For use of the epithet elsewhere see Ps. 73:26; 119:57. In normal usage, the word refers to a tract or territory. In the psalms, however, the word points to the Lord as the one who, like a field, sustains life.

Vss. 25-27. tôv … tôv …  tôv … = “good … good … good”: Each line begins with the same letter (and word): t.

Vss. kî … kî … kî … = “for … for … for”: Again, each line begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet: k.

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2 Corinthians 8:7-15
On the basis of the Lord becoming poor that we might become rich, God calls us to demonstrate genuine love in liberal giving for the poor.

Context
The chapter begins with Paul’s announcement to the people at Corinth that the churches of Macedonia, though themselves suffering from poverty, had contributed generously to the poor saints in Jerusalem. They begged for the favor of taking part in the relief effort out of their abundance of joy in the gospel.  For the notion of the Son of God surrendering a throne in order to serve, see Philippians 2:6-11.

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Mark 5:21-43
Jesus demonstrates his power over sickness and death by healing the woman with the issue of blood and by raising from the dead the daughter of Jairus, thus giving to all who believe, as the woman and Jairus did, wholeness and the hope of resurrection.
OR
Concerned for the whole person in any kind of affliction, Jesus heals those who believe and commends them for their faith.

Context
At 4:1 Jesus begins teaching a series of five parables about the kingdom of God as he and a large crowd gather “beside the sea.” At 5:1 Jesus and the disciples arrived at the other side of the sea, the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee where he exorcises “Legion.” Our pericope traces the itinerary back to the western shore, probably in the vicinity of Capernaum.

Key Words
V. 34.  thugatēr, hē pistis sou sesōken se = “Daughter, your faith has saved you”:  Jesus said the same to the woman of ill reputation who washed Jesus’ feet in connection with the forgiveness of her sins (Luke 7:50) and to the leper who returned to give thanks (Luke 17:19). The word is translated “save” or “heal.” The word is more comprehensive than the “curing” described at 1:34: 3:2, 10; 6:5, 13 (therapeuō) and earlier in our own story at v. 29 (iaomai).

V. 34. hypage eis eirēnēn = “Go in peace!”: With these words the priest dismissed the 5 Danites who had come seeking an inheritance (Judg. 18:6), and the priest Eli sent Hannah away with the assurance that the Lord will respond to her prayer for a child (1 Sam. 1:17). At 2 Sam. 15:9, the king dismissed Absalom to pay his vows to the Lord. At Luke 7:50, Jesus uses these words to dismiss the woman whose sins he had just forgiven,

V. 36. mē phobou, monon pisteuete = “Do not fear, only believe”: Mark has already demonstrated that fear is unnecessary when Jesus is present (4:40) and will continue to make the same point (6:50).

V. 43.  kai diesteilato autois polla hina mēdeis gnoi touto = “and he strictly charged that no one know this”:  The secrecy is characteristic of Mark; see the command to the leper at 1:44 and the response of Jesus to Peter’s confession at 8:30.

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Next week we will talk about the lessons for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B. You will benefit, I think, from reading in advance of the podcast:
Psalm 123
Ezekiel 2:1-5
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Mark 6:1-13

Comments»

1. Hebrew Student - June 21, 2009

Thanks for your comments on the Hebrew acrostics in Lamentations. The first four chapters are various forms of acrostics, but the last chapter has 22 verses and yet is not an acrostic in Hebrew. Do you have any suggestions why this is the case?

fostermccurley - June 22, 2009

I wish I could answer your question. It is intriguing how different the 5 chapters of Lamentations present the sufferings of the people, yet do so with a basic style of acrostic. Chapters 1, 2, and 4 begin each stanza with the next succeeding letter of the alphabet. Chapter 3 not only follows that pattern but repeats the appropriate letter for each line of the stanza. And, as you indicate, while the 22 letters of chapter 5 lead one to think of an acrostic, the stanzas or lines are not so arranged.

It is also interesting that chapters 1, 2, and 4 are commuinity dirges more than laments proper. Chapter 3 is an individual lament rather than the expected community lament. Only chapter 5 contains most of the basic ingredients of a community lament. Over all, they all seem to originate during the period of the exile in Babylon.

Whether or not they derive from the same author, the collection appears to express a variety of ways in which the people in exile expressed their fears, disappointments, anger (God’s and theirs), and divine forsaknness. At the same time, they offered in several ways the note of hope(3:19-33) and of God’s enduring reign (5:19-22).

But, alas, the use of 22 lines without the acrostic remains a puzzle to me. All we are left with is to focus on the lamentations of sufferings rather than on the poetic consistency or inconsistency of the acrostic form.

If you have further thoughts, please send them.


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