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Wrestling with the Word, episode 81: Lectionary 15 (7 Pentecost), Year C ( July 11, 2010) June 28, 2010

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Lectionary 15 (7 Pentecost)

How easy it is for groups of believers to lose the theological foundations that defined them in the first place! Sometimes cultural influences so overwhelm the communities of believers that they have trouble sorting out the foundation from the later construction. Sometimes attempts to control others by appealing to their fears causes the virtual replacement of basic beliefs by new requirements. In face of such human-caused confusion, God nevertheless sends spokespersons in every generation to call us back to basics, no matter how threatened the cultural and religious traditions might become.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 81: Lectionary 15 (7 Pentecost), Year C.

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Psalm 25:1-10
This acrostic psalm is a lament in which a pious worshipper pleads that those who wait for the Lord will not be put to shame. Typical of a lament, the worshipper acknowledges a history of God’s mercy and counts on it in the present situation to forgive sins. Wrapped up in this divine mercy are God’s salvation (v. 5), steadfast love, and faithfulness (vss. 7, 10). Along with the petitions are elements of Wisdom as the psalmist prays for instruction to bear the present time in faithfulness. (The plea for forgiveness in v. 7 is repeated in vv. 11 and 18.)

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Deuteronomy 30:9-14
In response to the curses Israel brought upon herself through infidelity to the Lord, God promises to restore prosperity to the people and makes the word accessible to them so that they might do it.

Context
With the end of the so-called “covenant code” at 28:68, chapters 29-33 represent a collection of various kinds of material before the Book of Deuteronomy comes to a close with the death of Moses and the succession of Joshua. Chapter 29 attempts to link the book to the Sinai covenant by including exhortations to the people within the context of a historical summary. Chapter 30 reiterates the blessing and curse theme of 27:1ff. and looks forward to that distant future when the Lord will bring Israelites back to their land from their dispersion in other lands. This pericope is part of a promise to exiles that God has not and will not forsake them in their despair.

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Parallel Passage:  Jeremiah 32

Key Words
V. 9.  wehôtîre = “and (God) will cause to remain over”: God will prosper the people, i.e., make their lives abundant. For the opposite of the blessings promised here, see the results of the curses at 28:25-35.

V. 9.  kî yāšûb YHWH lāsûs ‘ālekā= “for the Lord will turn to rejoicing over you”:  Compare  Jer. 32:41:  wesastî ‘alêhem = “I will rejoice over you.”

V. 10.  hakketûbâ besēpher hattôrâ hazzeh = “which are written in this instruction”:  The torah mentioned here is the code of chaps. 12-26.

V. 12-13.  “ascend to heaven”:  Recall Ps. 139:8 which speaks of the impossibility of escaping the presence of God.

V. 14.  “the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart”:  To the exiles in Babylon in the 6th century B.C., these words responded to their cry that the Lord had forsaken them (see Isa. 40:27; 49:15; Ezek. 37:11). Note Paul’s use of this verse to speak of the gospel (Rom. 10:8).

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Colossians 1:1-14
The gospel of Jesus Christ fills the community with faith, love, and hope, causing the Apostle to give thanks and to pray that they lead lives worthy of the Lord in spite of the invasion of heresies (2:8).

Context
The congregation at Colossae, a city in Asia Minor, was founded by Epaphras (1:7) who was a native of the city (4:12). The purpose of the letter is to address the influence of heresies and to encourage the church to remain faithful to the traditions that they had learned from the beginning. This pericope includes the author’s salutation (vv. 1-2), the thanksgiving for the community’s faith (vv. 3-8), and the first part of the prayer for the community’s steadfastness (vv. 9-20).  While some scholars defend Pauline authorship, the style and content seem to point to someone else as the author of the epistle.

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Luke 10:25-37
In response to the lawyer’s testing Jesus about eternal life and the identity of one’s neighbor, Jesus responded with a parable about the Good Samaritan indicating how the lawyer can be a neighbor by doing the Torah.

Context
rom some point on the way between Samaria and Jerusalem, Jesus had received the seventy whom he had commissioned to announce the kingdom of God. On that occasion Jesus offered a prayer of thanksgiving that God had hidden “these things” from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes. In vv. 23-24 Jesus seems to identify the “babes” as the disciples who see him and hear his word.

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Parallel Passage:  2 Chronicles 28:1-15

Synoptic Parallels: Matthew 22:34-39; Mark 12:28-31

Key Words

V. 25.  nomikos = “lawyer”:  The man is an expert in the law of Moses.

V. 27.  “You shall love the Lord …”:  The commandment appears at Deut. 6:5 which immediately follows the well-known Shema; cf. also Deut. 10:12; Josh. 22:5.

V. 27.  kai ton plēsion sou hōs seauton = “and your neighbor as yourself”:  The command appears at Lev. 19:18 (part of the Holiness Code) where “neighbor” is “one of your own people.”  Here “neighbor” is defined not according to Jewish law or even as the object of love but as the subject of loving care.

V. 28.  touto poiei kai zēsē = “do this and you shall live”:  Recall Lev. 18:5:  by doing God’s statutes and ordinances “a person shall live”; cf. also Deut. 30:9-14.  The gift of life is connected with a person’s repentance at Ezek. 18:32.  Jesus does not seem to have difficulty relating good works to the promise of life, as was indeed his tradition.

V. 30.  katebainen = “went down”:  The elevation of Jerusalem is above sea level, while Jericho is more than 800 feet below sea level.

Vv. 31-33.  antiparēlthen … antiparēlthen … ēlthen = “passed by … passed by … came”:  The Greek demonstrates the contrast by use of the same root word.  The word antiparēlthen appears only here in the entire NT.

V. 34. epemelēthē autou = “took care of him”:  The words also appear to describe the work assigned to the innkeeper in v. 35.  Apart from here the word occurs only in the LXX at Gen.44:21 (Joseph’s offer for Benjamin) and Sirach 30:25.

V. 37.  ho poiēsas to eleos met’ autou = “the one who did mercy with him”: then poreuou kai su poiei homoiōs = “go and do likewise.”  Note the connection with the command to keep the law in verse 28, indicating that the one who keeps the law about loving God and neighbor acts like the Samaritan in caring for a needy person.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 80: Lectionary 14 (6 Pentecost), Year C (July 4, 2010) June 27, 2010

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Lectionary 14 (6 Pentecost)

God’s generosity can cause problems among people. For one reason or another, some folks think they have a corner on the market of God’s love and grace. The problem is as commonplace today as it was in the days of the Bible. The Jonah-syndrome occurred again and again among the people of Israel and in the early church. God, however, proves both persistent and consistent in extending to the world grace and forgiveness and love all the way into the kingdom to come.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 80: Lectionary 14 (6 Pentecost), Year C.

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Psalm 66:1-9
Our verses belong to the first part of the psalm (vss. 1-12) in which a choir of singers praises the Lord, along with “all the earth.” The universal praise derives from God’s gracious actions for Israel when the Lord “turned the sea into dry land” so they could cross over—referring both to the exodus (Exod. 14:21-22) and to the gift of land (Josh. 3:14-17). The second part of the psalm is an individual thanksgiving as a grateful response to the Lord’s listening to the petitioner’s prayer. Whether for the community or the individual, God’s responds to cries for help with redemption.

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Isaiah 66:10-14
In response to the attitude that God’s salvation event is only partial, God assures that what has been conceived will culminate in the celebration of birth and in continuing nurture of God’s people while simultaneously the nations who had oppressed the “child” will know God’s judgment.

Context
Within a passage about God’s coming to judge the whole earth (vv. 6, 15-16), verses 7-14 form a separate unit describing the salvation of Israel in the post-exilic period.  In this way the promise of salvation to Israel is set within a larger apocalyptic event of God’s universal act.

Key Words
V. 10.  simchû … wegîlû … sîsû = “rejoice … be glad … rejoice”:  The call to rejoice over Jerusalem is common in Third Isaiah; see 61:10; 62:5; 65:18. The joy represents the opposite of what people were experiencing at the time.

V. 11.  tîneqû ûšeba’tem miššōd tanchûeyhā_ = “you will suck and be satisfied from her comforting breast”:  The imagery continues the miraculous birth of Zion’s children in vv. 7-9.

V. 12.  ûkenachal š_t_p kebôd g_yîm = “and like an overflowing stream the wealth of the nations”:  For similar imagery see 60:5; 61:6. Since Israel has been the pawn of the nations for the previous centuries, this image once more represents the opposite of what has been.

V. 13.  tenachamennû … ‘anachemkem … ten_ch_mû = “comforts … comfort … be comforted”:  The emphasis on “comfort” has been carried from Second Isaiah (40:1; 49:13 [also the reason for song]; 51:3, 12; 52:9 [// “redeemed”]).

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Galatians 6:(1-6) 7-16
People who live by the Spirit are called to share all things with one another — burdens, the word, goodness, for they are a new creation to whom the world has been crucified.

Context
These words essentially bring the Epistle to the Galatians to a close.  Immediately preceding this pericope, however, is Paul’s discussion about people of the Spirit living by the Spirit, and that means above all harmony within the Spirit-filled community.

Key Words
V. 1.  hymeis hoi pneumatikoi = “you who are of the Spirit”:  RSV‘s “you who are spiritual” sounds a bit lofty and generally religious.  NRSV‘s “you who have received the Spirit” is more appropriate, particularly in light of the use of Spirit elsewhere in the epistle, even at the end of chap. 5.

V. 15.  kainē ktisis = “a new creation”:  Paul uses the same words to describe a Christian (whoever is “in Christ”) at 2 Cor. 5:17 where the eschatological emphasis is even clearer.  Here the allusion to people of the Spirit (à la Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:17-18) accomplishes the same purpose.

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Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
In order to prepare people for his coming, Christ sends disciples ahead, commissioning them to proclaim the kingdom of God in word and deed and encouraging them to rejoice in the promised eternal home.

Context
Beginning at 9:51, Luke’s Gospel reports the itinerary of Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem.  At the outset of this trip, Jesus was rejected by the Samaritan villagers and then laid down the radical demands on those who would follow him.

Key Words
V. 1.  anedeixen = “appointed”:  For “70,” see Num. 11:16; Exod. 24:1, 9.

V. 1.  apesteilen = “sent”:  The term is common in LXX to describe the action of God in accomplishing divine purposes through humans; cf., e.g., Moses (Exod. 3:10), Isaiah (Isa. 6:8), the prophets in general (Jer. 7:25).

V. 2.  tou therismou = “of the harvest”:  See also Matt. 9:37f.; John 4:35.

V. 19.  “tread upon serpents and scorpions”:  Note the similarity with Ps. 91:13 where authority and power to do so are given to those who trust in God. The use of the serpent under the human foot is different at Gen. 3:15.

V. 20. chairete de hoti ta onomata hymōn eggegraptai en tois ouranois = “but rejoice that your names are written in heaven”:  At Exod. 32:32-33 and Ps. 69:28 the blotting out of names from the book God has written comes as a result sinfulness. According to Isa. 4:3, inclusion in the book means “recorded for life.” Similarly, Paul’s uses that image for his co-workers in the gospel (Phil. 4:3). Further, the author of Hebrews speaks to the suffering Christians as the first-born who are enrolled in heaven” (Heb. 12:23). The expression, in other words, takes on eschatological significance.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 79: Lectionary 13 (5 Pentecost), Year C (June 27, 2010) June 16, 2010

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Lectionary 13 (5 Pentecost)

While a general human tendency is to “look out for yourself,” the Bible focuses on the opposite: look out for others. The new direction is not simply an ethical issue. It actually derives from the nature of God. Throughout the Bible God demonstrates unconditional loyalty to people and to fulfilling promises. God’s unswerving commitment calls for faithful discipleship. Since serving God as disciples has no real form except loving one another, then our call is to “get out of ourselves” and focus on others. In doing so, we worship the Lord our God.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 79: Lectionary 13 (5 Pentecost), Year C.

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Psalm 16
The psalm expresses the commitment and trust of the worshiper to the Lord. The psalmist attributes to God the good fortune that has come because of trusting in the Lord to the exclusion of all others, because of confessing that the Lord is “my chosen portion and my cup” (v. 5), and because of heeding the Lord’s instruction. Those who choose other gods will not find favor with the Lord, but those who, like himself, choose only YHWH will experience blessing and joy.

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1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21
Against Elijah‘s attempt to seek refuge in the traditional “holy place,” God sent the prophet back into the realm of history to anoint kings to rule and a prophetic successor to bring God’s word.

Context
Elijah had won the contest against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and had the losers slain.  Jezebel, Ahab’s queen who worshipped Baal, threatened to kill Elijah.  The prophet took refuge on Mount Horeb.

Key Words
Vv. 15-16.  māšach = “anoint”:  The anointing of kings was common in biblical Israel; usually used of Davidic kings, although see Cyrus at Isa. 54:1.   Interestingly at the accession of Hazael there is no anointing mentioned (see 2 Kings 8:7-15), and Jehu was anointed not by Elijah or his successor Elisha but by one of Elisha’s disciples.

V. 19.  šenêm-‘āsār tsemādîm = “twelve yoke of oxen”:  A rather overwhelming herd to pull a wooden plow!  Heb. tsemed can also mean “a measurement of a field” and so could be translated “he was plowing twelve acres before him, and he was on the twelfth” (see 1 Sam. 14:14; Isa. 5:10).  Moreover, v. 21 seems to imply there was only one yoke (tsemed) of oxen.

V. 19.  ’addartô = “his mantle”:  See Zech. 13:4 for such a prophetic mantle; for the magical quality of Elijah’s mantle, see 2 Kings 2:8, 13, 14 where it plays a role similar to that of Moses’ hand (Exod. 14:21, 26).

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Galatians 5:1, 13-25
God calls people who live by the Spirit to share all things with one another — burdens, the word, goodness — for they are a new creation to whom the world has been crucified.

Context
In Chapter 5 Paul turns to the issue of freedom as the object of Christ’s gift through the gospel.  In the paragraph omitted from our pericope, verses 2-12, the apostle writes that by “adding” circumcision and other practices to the gospel, the people have severed themselves from Christ.

Key Words
V. 1.  tē eleutheria hēmas Christos ēleutherōsen = “for freedom Christ has set us free”:  The seemingly redundant expression emphasizes the nature of the gospel’s gift.  It calls to mind the image of the slave markets in the Graeco-Roman world, specifically the “sacred manumission” decrees. An inscription from 200-199 B.C. at a temple of Apollo at Delphi reads “The Pythian Apollo bought from Sosibus of Amphissa for freedom a female slave,…” (C.K. Barrett, The New Testament Background:  Selected Documents [London:  SPCK, 1958]:  52).

V. 14. “For the whole law is fulfilled on one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”: The connection with Jesus’ teaching on the great commandments in Matt. 22:35-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28 is obvious. Paul, however, eliminates the “first” great commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God …” Paul likewise settles on this one commandment at Rom. 13:9; see also James 2:8.

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Luke 9:51-62
Rebuking his disciples for desiring judgment on those who would not receive him and his destiny, Jesus calls people to unconditional discipleship within God’s reign.

Context
Following the Transfiguration, Jesus resumed his ministry of healing and teaching:  foretelling his death, settling the argument among the disciples about who was the greatest, and correcting the disciples when they forbade a non-disciple to cast out demons.  Our pericope begins a new section of Luke’s Gospel, one in which Jesus begins the journey toward Jerusalem and prepares his disciples for the tasks ahead.

Key Words
V. 51.  en tō symplērousthai tas hēmeras = “in the filling up of the days”:  The expression occurs also at Acts 2:1 to describe the arrival of Pentecost. The words here actually open a new section in Luke’s Gospel in which the “long” journey to Jerusalem will be filled with Jesus’ teachings and some miracle stories. It seems Luke uses this block of material as instruction for the missionary journey of the church in his own day.

V. 51.  tēs analēmpseōs autou = “of his being taken up”:  The verb form analambanein is used at Acts 1:2, 11, 22 for Jesus being taken up to heaven.  In OT traditions one thinks of the journey of Enoch (Gen. 5:24) and of Elijah (2 Kings 2:11; cf. also 1 Macc. 2:58; Sirach 48:9).

Vss. 51-52.  apesteilen angelous pro prosōpou autou … hōs hetoimasai autō = “he sent messengers before him … to prepare for him”:  The words are not identical but similar to Mal. 3:1 where the messenger is Elijah (Mal. 4:5 English).

V. 54.  “to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them”:  The words are a quotation from 2 Kings 1:10, 12 where Elijah demonstrates he is a “man of God” by using such means to destroy King Ahaziah’s soldiers.

V. 55.  epetimēsen autois = “he rebuked them”:  The word appears in a technical sense of bringing chaos under control, thus the object of Jesus’ rebuke are unclean spirits (Mark 1:25), Satan in the words of Peter (Mark 8:33), and the stormy sea (Mark 4:35-41). Here his own disciples are standing in the way of Jesus’ determination to fulfill his mission. Simultaneously, Jesus’ words indicate he breaks with the Elijah tradition of demonstrating power in order to pursue the way of the cross.

V. 62.  “put the hand to the plow”:  See 1 Kings 19:19-20 where the words describe the daily work of Elisha at the moment of his call by Elijah to succeed him in the prophetic office

Wrestling with the Word, episode 78: Lectionary 12 (4 Pentecost), Year C (June 20, 2010) June 11, 2010

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Lectionary 12 (4 Pentecost)

Literary critics define a tragedy as a story that ends with the major character excluded from his or her community. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, therefore, qualifies as a tragedy. The closing words describe the creature’s fate: “He was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance. The End.” By contrast, a comedy is a story in which the major character is incorporated (or re-incorporated) into the community of which she or he is a part. The Bible abounds in comedy, especially because God is committed to renewing people to himself and to one another. That divine commitment prevails, even to the consternation of those who insist the seats to the play have been sold out.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 78: Lectionary 12 (4 Pentecost), Year C.

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Psalm 22:19-28
The first three verses of our psalm sum up a three-stanza lament that the psalmist has been singing since the first verse. Typical of a lament is the claim that God is distant precisely when needed most. The familiar cry to hasten to deliver the lamenting soul immediately follows. Then in verses 22 occurs the praise and thanksgiving expressed to God for having broken the painful silence. The thanksgiving for God’s deliverance extends from a todah meal in the temple with intimate family and friends to the nations of the world and to generations past and future.

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Isaiah 65:1-9
Heartbroken over the people’s refusal to hearken to the invitation, the Lord assures appropriate judgment on them but simultaneously promises to deliver their descendants and make them heirs of the chosen land.

Context
Sometime in the post-exilic period these sermons were collected under the general heading of Third Isaiah. They expressed some of the difficulties during that period of disillusionment. The people who had listened to the preaching of Second Isaiah in Babylon expected the return from exile to coincide with the Day of the Lord and the inauguration of the kingdom of God. Failing to observe the fulfillment of that promise, many of the people turned their backs on the God who had spoken so eloquently for a time but now again seemed to retreat into silence. The pericope demonstrates a new perspective in the post-exilic period, namely that the people of Israel are divided among those who are faithful and trusting and those who are not.

Key Words
V. 1.  nidraštî = “I was ready to be sought”:  The verb begins a three-fold parallelism in which YHWH expresses the repeated offer of divine presence. The verse as a whole expresses the Lord’s heartbreak over the people’s refusal to respond to the Lord’s invitation.  In some ways the pathos of God here sounds like that expressed in the Book of Hosea (see especially 6:4-6) and in the Book of Jeremiah (see especially 3:19-20).

V. 2.  hahōlekîm hadderek lō’-tôb ’achar machšebōtêhem = “who keep walking the road (that is) not good, pursuing their own devices”:  The concept sounds like sin in Genesis 3 where the first couple defy the Lord in order to pursue their own desires, that is, autonomy versus the reign of God. The same term appears at Isa. 55:7, 8, 9; 59:7; 66:18, and it is nowhere complementary to human beings.

V. 3-4.  The entire list of offenses involves cultic practices forbidden in Israel:  offering worship and sacrifices at the old familiar “high places” of Canaanite origin (see the reference to “mountains” and “hills” in v. 7), consulting the dead for oracles, and eating forbidden foods.

V. 5.  ’ēlleh ‘āšān be’appî ’ēš yōqeret kol-hayyôm = “These (are) smoke in my nostrils, a fire burning all the day”:  Fire and smoke in the nostrils of God describes divine anger (see, e.g., Jer. 17:4; Deut. 32:22).  Pleasing to God is when the scent in God’s nostrils is sweet (see Gen. 8:21; Mal. 3:4).

V. 6.  lō ’echeseh kî ’im-šillamtî = “I will not keep silent but I will repay”:  Consider the petition on the part of the prophet at 64:12:  “Will you keep silent, and punish us so severely?”  Now God breaks silence.

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Galatians 3:23-29
Since God’s law has served its purpose, God has in Christ begun here and now that new humanity of the End Time in which ethnic, sociological and sexual distinctions have no meaning.

Context
Continuing his argument that those who impose Jewish law and the rite of circumcision on the Galatian Christians actually distort the gospel, Paul has been stressing the “oneness” of the faith:  one gospel (1:6-9), one offspring which is Christ (3:16), one God (3:20). With these verses, Paul moves from his discussion about Jewish Christians to focus on Gentile Christians. His words here appear to derive from an early baptismal formula (see similarly 1 Corinthians 12:13 and Colossians 3:1) which he uses as a reminder of their identity and status before God.

Key Words
Vv. 23-25.  pro tou de elthein tēn pistin … eis Christon … ouketi =  “before faith came … until Christ … no longer”:  Note the temporal distinction between periods; cf. “from now on … once … no longer” at 2 Cor. 5:16.

V. 23.  sugkleiomenoi = “confined, imprisoned”:  The same word appears in v. 22 with hē graphē = “the scriptures” as subject:  “the scriptures confined all things under sin.”

V. 24.  paidogōgos = “custodian, pedagogue”:  In ancient times the word described a slave who accompanied a boy to and from school, was responsible for the safety and manners of the child, could be a rod-wielding authoritarian.

V. 26.  pantes gar huoi theou este tēs pisteōs en Christō Iēsou = “for you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus”:  The announcement of identity as God’s children was familiar to the Jewish people (Deut, 14:1; cf. Jer. 3:19; 31:9). Further, note the structural parallel with v. 28:  pantes gar hymeis eis este en Christō Iēsou = “for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

V. 27.  ebaptisthēte … evedysasthe = “you were baptized … you put on”:  For “putting on Christ” in terms of baptism, see also Col. 3:10 and Eph. 4:24.  Different is the “putting on” of an immortal nature (1 Cor. 15:53-54), of a heavenly dwelling (2 Cor. 5:2-3); for such heavenly attire see Rev. 15:6 (angels); 19:14 (the armies of heaven).

V. 29. ara tou Abraam sperma este = “then you are Abraham’s offspring”: The reminder of the baptismal status of Gentile Christians surely came to the Jewish Christians as lightning striking the same persons twice. The Jewish people grew up believing that they were the children of Abraham and even reminded Jesus of their status (John 8:33). At their baptism and here once more, the universality of God’s people in Christ challenges their exclusivity.

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Luke 8:26-39
Confronted by the Gentile demoniac who had been cut off from his community, Jesus exorcised Legion–driving some people away in fear and inviting the healed recipient to participate in the kingdom by announcing what God had done.

Context
The story takes place on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, and the journey that led Jesus and the disciples to that side of the lake provided the opportunity for Jesus to exert his power over the chaos of the sea (vss. 22-25). The territory was part of the section known as the Decapolis and was home to Gentiles, many of whom were pagans.

Key Words
V. 28. ti emoi kai soi = “What have you to do with me?” (lit., what to me and to you?): The expression is usually used by one who is threatened by another:  “what do we have to do with each other?”  See Judg. 11:12; 2 Sam. 16:10; 19:22; 2 Kings 3:13; 2 Chron. 35:21.  In NT see Mark 1:24//Luke 4:34; Matt. 8:29; somewhat different, see John 2:4.

V. 28.  “Jesus, Son of the Most High God”: The recognition of Jesus’ identity by these non-human creatures (see also Mark 3:11) is striking in light of the failure of humans to know who he was.

V. 31. eis tēn abysson = “into the abyss”: The word translates the Hebrew tehōm at Gen. 1:2. At Romans 10:7, the abyss is the place of the dead. In the Book of Revelation, the word appears as the abode of the Antichrist (the beast, Abaddon/Apollyon) at 9:11; 11:7; 17:8, and ultimately the place to which the devil/Satan is thrown (20:3). Apparently, since the abyss is the home of demons, the NRSV translates the demons’ pleas that Jesus “not to order them to go back into the abyss.”

V. 39. hypostrepse eis ton oikon = “return to your home”: Jesus’ command fits the report that he had “healed” (esōthē) the demoniac (v. 36), because the restoration to community is the saving wholeness that healing conveys.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 77: Lectionary 11 (3 Pentecost), Year C (June 13, 2010) June 8, 2010

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Lectionary 11 (Third Sunday after Pentecost)

Many of us have trouble with forgiveness. Sometimes the difficulty is granting forgiveness to someone who has deeply hurt, offended, or dishonored us. Sometimes the problem is with receiving forgiveness, either from another person or from God. The whole Bible, and indeed our lessons for the day make clear that whatever difficulties we might have with forgiveness, God is always reaching out to forgive our sin. God’s grace is abundant. Accepting the divine gift can change our lives. Through God’s forgiveness we can find peace and purpose.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 77: Lectionary 11 (3 Pentecost), Year C.

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Psalm 32
The psalm is one of thanksgiving for the forgiveness the petitioner experienced from God, merely by acknowledging sin.  Prior to that expression of guilt and the reception of forgiveness the petitioner’s physical and emotional life was in ruin.  The difference in his own life leads him to invite others to follow his example (v. 6).  After this invitation the psalmist takes upon himself the role of a teacher, and so the psalm develops into a wisdom psalm as it concludes.

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2 Samuel 11:26–12:10, 13-15
In spite of the sinfulness of God’s people, God nevertheless forgives us and uses us in the pursuit of God’s mission on earth.

Context
Chapter 11 begins with David’s view of Bathsheba’s rooftop bath.  It goes on to relate the subsequent sexual intercourse between the two, her conception, and David’s strategy to have her husband Uriah the Hittite killed in battle.

Key Words
12:7.  mešachtîkā = “I anointed you”:  David was anointed as a young boy by the prophet Samuel (1 Sam. 16:13), and later the elders of Israel anointed David king over Israel (2 Sam. 5:3).  Since the former anointing was said to be the act of YHWH, the allusion here is to 1 Sam. 16.

12:9. maddûa‘ bāzîtā ’et-debar YHWH = “Why have you despised the word of the Lord”:  According to Prov. 14:2, one who despises the Lord “is devious in his ways”; at 1 Sam. 2:30 the wicked priestly house of Eli will suffer disaster because they “despise” the Lord.  The “word of the Lord,” which is said to be despised here, are the commandments prohibiting murder (Exod. 20:13) and adultery (20:14).

12:15.  wayyiggōp YHWH = “and the Lord struck”:  For other examples of the Lord smiting an individual, see 1 Sam. 25:38 (Nabal); 26:10 (Saul); 2 Chron. 13:20 (Jeroboam); 21:18 (Jehoram).

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Galatians 2:15-21
Against those who would presume to contribute to their own innocence before God, God justifies (declares innocent) those who believe in Christ, calling them to surrender their old identity in order to live as persons in whom Christ resides.

Context
Paul concludes his discussion of the argument with Peter regarding the imposition of Jewish practices on Gentiles who have become Christians.  The apostle insists that such an intrusion into the gospel negates it and surrenders the gospel to the whims of human traditions.  Immediately prior to our pericope, Paul wrote of his encounter with Cephas:  before James’ representatives appeared on the scene, Cephas ate with Gentiles; after their coming, he withdrew.

Key Words
V. 16.  eidotes [de] hoti … dikaioutai anthrōpos dia pisteōs ’Iēsou Christou = “seeing that … a person is justified through faith in Jesus Christ”:  Note the change that occurs in Romans 3:24: dikaioumenoi dōrean tē autou chariti dia tēs apolytrōseōs tēs en Christō ’Iēsou = “they are justified as a gift by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” Yet, at Romans 3:26, Paul writes that God “justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

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Luke 7:36–8:3
God in Christ forgives those who need forgiveness and come to him humbly, thereby enabling them to be “lovers” and to live in peace.

Context
Following his discussion about John the Baptist, Jesus spoke of the fickleness of the people of his times.  They accuse John of possessing a demon because he does not eat normal food or drink wine.  Yet they accuse Jesus of being a glutton and a drunkard and a friend of sinners.

Key Words
7:36.  tis … tōn Pharisaiōn = “one of the Pharisees”:  Elsewhere Jesus eats with Pharisees (11:37; 14:1) just as he also eats with those despised by the Pharisees:  Zacchaeus (19:5) and unnamed sinners (v. 34; also cf. 5:30; 15:2).

7:37, 39.  hamartōlos = “sinner”: The same word appears for Jesus’ associates at v. 34 and   often elsewhere in Luke (5:32; see also 15:7, 10).

7:44-46.  “tears … kiss … anoint”:  The terms describe here the woman’s love.  “Tears” demonstrate Paul’s love for the Corinthians at 2 Cor. 2:4.  “Kiss” denotes forgiving love at Luke 15:20; tender affection at Acts 20:37; Christian affection at Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20.  “Anointing” the head with oil is done by a host to an honored quest; see Ps. 23:5; Amos 6:6.

7:47, 48.  apheōntai (sou) hai hamartiai (autēs) = “Your/her sins have been forgiven”:  The perfect tense indicates the woman had already been forgiven; a theological passive. Jesus had already explained through his parable that forgiveness leads to her loving act rather than her action resulting in forgiveness.

7:50.  poreuou eis eirēnēn = “Go in peace”:  The same dismissal occurs at 8:48 where Jesus likewise commends a woman for her faith (following Mark 5:34).  See also 1 Sam. 1:17; 20:42; 29:7.

8:1.  kēryssōn kai euaggelizomenos tēn basileian tou theou = “preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God”:  The two verbs indicate one action, and that preaching of the kingdom of God is accomplishing its presence among the people.