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Wrestling with the Word, episode 29: Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B (July 12, 2009) June 24, 2009

Posted by fostermccurley in Wrestling With The Word podcast.
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Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Distinguishing between Christian faith on the one hand and worldly power and control on the other hand has been the Christian’s dilemma since the time of Constantine. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead promises God’s plan for the future of world and for all eternity. In the meantime, that hope for a new time, God’s reign, enables us to endure hardships and sufferings, even rejections that resemble more the way of the cross than the victory over death. Furthermore, trying to discover the world’s adoration of God in the present time can lead us to utter frustration and even a feeling that God has failed. Our lessons for this day run the gamut from salvation achieved but yet to come, of rejection and failure by the world powers to acknowledge the reign of God, and God’s management plan for the universe that flies far beyond what we hope to see in the present time.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 29: Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B.


Psalm 85:8-13
The psalm is a wondrous mixture of praise, lament, and the promised word. The period immediately after the return of the exiles from Babylon seem to fit the movement of the psalm. We know about that plight and the reasons for it as we move from the preaching of Second Isaiah (Isa. 40—55) to that of Third Isaiah (Isa. 56—66). In our psalm, verses 1-3 praise the Lord for having forgiven the people of their sins and restoring them to the land (see Isa. 40:1-11). Verses 4-7 express the lament that the homecoming did not fit the prophesied and expected results see Isa. 56—66). Verses 8-13 provide the report of the official prophet as he had listened carefully to the Lord’s promise and now delivers what the word promised. Powerfully, the actions of God as steadfast love (covenant loyalty), faithfulness, righteousness, and peace will join together for the fulfillment of God’s promises.


Amos 7:7-15
Having provided a vision portraying divine testing of the trueness of the house of Jeroboam, the Lord called the herdsman Amos to prophesy in spite of his lack of training and in spite of the inevitable rejection of his message.

In the days of Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.) God called a herdsman named Amos to leave his home at Tekoa near Bethlehem to prophesy in the northern kingdom of Israel. With the exception of the final two prophecies in his book, Amos preached only judgment, not only against Israel but also against Judah. Immediately prior to our pericope, God had provided a different image of destruction for Israel that prompted the prophet to intercede successfully on behalf of the land and its people.

Key Words
V. 7.  anāk = “a plumb line”:  This is the only occurrence of the word in the Hebrew Bible; however, it seems to be used in a way similar to mišqelet and qāv at Isa. 28:17. The plumb line does not indicate judgment per se but indicates the work of a builder who is testing a wall to determine its soundness and trueness.

V. 9.  bāmôt yischāq = “the high places of Isaac”:  bāmôt is the name given to “sanctuaries” (see the parallelism here), usually Canaanite holy places. Here the word refers to Israel’s rival sanctuaries to Jerusalem (especially Dan and Bethel) that have cropped up in the northern kingdom.

V. 10. qāšar = “conspire”: It is not clear with whom Amos would have been conspiring. However, the history of Israel might have served as a warning to Amaziah, because internal rebellions had in the past followed prophetic oracles of judgment (see 1 Kings 11:29ff. and 12:16; 19:15ff. and 2 Kings 8:7ff.; 9:1ff.).

V. 10.  Bethel: According to the biblical tradition at Genesis 28:10-22, the ancestor nearest and dearest to the northern kingdom, Jacob, founded that sanctuary on his way to sojourn with Laban the Aramean.  Bethel became notorious from the Judean point of view when Jeroboam I established that sanctuary and the one at Dan as rivals to the Jerusalem temple by setting up a golden calf in each place. That Bethel “is the king’s sanctuary, and it is the temple of the kingdom” (v. 13) indicates that “church and state” were combined there just as they were in Jerusalem.

V. 14.  lō’-nābî’ ’ānōkî welō’  ben-nābî’ ’ānōkî = “not a prophet I and not a son of a prophet I”:  The tense to be supplied is uncertain.  Was he not a prophet previous to his call but now is a prophet? Or is he referring to a class of prophets of which he is not a member?

V. 15.  wayyiqqachēnî YHWH mē’acharê hatstsōn = “the Lord took me from following the flock”:  See the Lord’s words to David at 2 Sam. 7:8:  “I took you … from following the flock, to be prince.”


Ephesians 1:3-14
Having adopted us as children through the forgiveness of our sins in Christ’s death, God calls the church and each of us to live out our future inheritance by glorifying God here and now.

The Epistle to the Ephesians is not in the strictest sense an epistle, and it might not have been addressed to the Ephesians. Furthermore, in spite of its first word, it was probably not written by Paul. Written sometime before A.D. 95, this essay by an admirer of Paul was apparently intended as a theological teaching about the unity of the church under the leadership of Christ, its head. That unity was emphasized because of the growth of the church in Gentile circles and the apparent difficulty of remembering the church’s origin among Jewish people and Jewish traditions. The piece selected as our pericope is a hymn about God’s blessedness and how that blessing affects the life of the baptized.

Key Words
V. 5.  en agapē  proorisas hēmas eis huiothesian dia ’Iēsou Christou = “in love having destined us for adoption through Jesus Christ”:  The term huiothesia = “adoption” is used at Rom. 9:5 for the relationship of Israel to God and also at Gal. 4:5 for the relationship of Christians to God through baptism.

V. 7.  en hō  echomen tēn apoltrōsin dia tou haimatos autou, tēn aphesin tōn paraptōmatōn = “in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins”:  These expressions in the hymn indicate that by the time of the writing of this epistle, they had become common liturgical expressions and are quoted without explanation. Interestingly, while Paul used the word apoltrosis = “redemption” in the sense of freedom from the power of sin and death (slave market imagery), the apposition here appears to define  “redemption” as God’s pardoning of our sins.

V. 10. eis oikonomian tou plērōmatos tōn kairōn = “as a management of the fullness of time”: Mark summarizes the beginning of Jesus’ preaching in terms of “the time is fulfilled; the kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15). In his Letter to the Galatians, Paul writes of the “fullness of time” as the incarnation of God’s Son in the world to redeem those under the law in order that our adoption might occur (Gal. 5:4-5). Here, the words point to the grand purpose of God, namely, to “manage” the promise of a new order for the entire universe over which Christ will rule.

V. 12. eis to einai hēmas eis epainon doxēs autou = “for us to exist for the praise of his glory”: The hymn defines Christian responsibility to be and do what God created humanity for: the glory of God. Note the climax to the hymn Paul quotes at Phil. 2:5-11.


Mark 6:14-29
Trying to understand who Jesus was on the basis of reports of his miracles, Herod could find explanation only in the rumor that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead.

Chapter 6 begins with the account that Jesus was rejected even in his hometown (vv. 1-6a). Then occurs a paragraph about his commissioning the twelve to continue his ministry of casting out demons and healing those who were sick (vv. 6b-13).

Key Words
Vss. 14-15. The range of rumors about the identity of Jesus occurs again at 8:27-28. The connection between John the baptizer and Elijah occurs elsewhere (see Mark 1:4, 6; 9:13; Matt. 11:7-14). Note the similarity between John’s reproach of Herod Antipas and Herodias with Elijah’s reproach of Ahab and Jezebel at 1 Kings 21:17-29).

V. 16. “John, whom I beheaded”: Herod’s admission and the following story of explanation provide further testimony for Mark’s emphasis that the world rejected Jesus and the God who sent him. The list on the opposition team includes the priestly and governing authorities, the people, and the disciples. The inevitability of Jesus’ death and the way of discipleship will stand out when Jesus speaks explicitly at 8:31-38.

V. 29.  kai ethēkan auto en mnēmeiō = “and laid it in a tomb”:  The same words are used for the burial of Jesus at 15:46. The result for John, God’s representative, is, like that of Amos, failure to be recognized. The effect for John, however, is capital punishment rather than dismissal.


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