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Wrestling with the Word, episode 86: Lectionary 20 (12 Pentecost), Year C (August 15, 2010) July 26, 2010

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Lectionary 20 (12 Pentecost)

Our options for the day are either “Lectionary 20: Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C,” or “Mary, the Mother of our Lord.” I have chosen to discuss the pericopes for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, because in previous episodes I had discussed some of the pericopes for Mary’s special day. If you are celebrating this festival on August 15, 2010, I invite you to listen to the podcast on Luke 1:46-55, Mary’s Magnificat, in Episode 52, Fourth Sunday in Advent, Year C. For the psalm, Psalm 34:1-9, listen to Episode 33, Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B.

So much of the Bible’s view of God runs smack against the views of religious and moral systems, especially when they get tied up with economic and political ideologies. It was as true in biblical times as it is in our day (and has been true over the millennia in between). Preaching and teaching on any of the lessons for this Sunday might raise the hackles of many listeners. However, failing to proclaim the news contained in these lessons throws us into the group of false prophets that Jeremiah emphatically denounces and into the multitudes that Jesus scolded for failing to catch on to the meaning of his mission.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 86: Lectionary 20 (12 Pentecost), Year C.


Psalm 82
The psalm is basically the report of a vision of an event that takes place “in the divine council.” [Psalm 29, 89, Job 1, Isaiah 6; comparisons in Babylon. Canaan. And Egypt] Yahweh, the judge of the assembly, accuses the gods of failing to live up to their divine identity. They have taken the side of the wicked who oppress the poor. Their responsibility as gods is to provide justice for the weak, the orphans, the afflicted, and the destitute. Neither the gods nor their followers, like the idol worshipers at Isaiah 44, 4, 18, have a clue about life and the world. Since the gods have failed to live up to their responsibility, Yahweh announces the verdict: they will lose their divine status and become mortal like human beings. The psalm concludes with a prayer that God establish justice in the earth, because all the nations of the world belong to the One who is known for justice and righteousness.


Jeremiah 23:23-29
Against false prophets who side with the idols, God stands apart from  manipulative attempts, even by those who call themselves prophets, by remaining beyond reach and control.


God makes prophecy true by providing the word and sending the prophet.

The passage is part of a longer section running from v. 9 through 40 that falls under the heading “Concerning the prophets.” It actually includes priests as well from verses 33-40. After explaining their general wickedness and their impending judgment (vv. 9-15), the section details the particular problem:  the prophets fill the people with vain hopes, speaking visions of their own minds rather than the word from the Lord (vv. 16-22).  Following our assigned verses, the problems are that they steal words from one another (v. 30), they say, “Says the Lord,” (v. 31), they prophesy lying dreams and they lead the people astray (v. 32), and behind it all, they are not sent by God (v. 32).

Key Words
V. 23.  ha’elōhê miqqārōb ’ānî … welō’ ’’elōhê mērāchōq = “Am I a god from near … and not a god from far?”:  opposite in LXX:  “I am a god at hand … and not a god far off.”

V. 26.  šeqer = “deception”:  The word appears often in Jeremiah for false prophecy:  5:31; 14:14; 20:6; 27:10, 14, 16; 29:9, 21; perhaps the molten image as the great deception lies at the heart of the problem (10:14 = 51:17).

V. 25.  chālamtî = “I have dreamed”:  In a positive sense, see Jacob (Gen. 28:12); Joseph (Gen. 37:5-10); Daniel (Dan. 1:17); in a false sense, see  Deut. 13:1-6; Zech. 10:2.

V. 26.  tarmît = “deceitfulness”:  See Jer. 8:5 for the people’s deceit; elsewhere for prophets, see 14:14; for the “wicked” generally, see Ps. 119:118.

V. 27.  lehaškîach … še = “to make forget … my name”:  Note later in the same verse,  “their fathers forgot my name for Baal”; opposite is “remember YHWH’s name” at Ps. 119:55; or simply “remember YHWH” at Deut. 8:18; Isa. 64:4; Jer. 51:50; Ezek. 6:9; Zech. 10:9; “not remember” at Judg. 8:34; Isa. 17:10; 57:11.

V. 29.  ’ēš = “fire”:  See note on Luke 12:49 below.

For commentary see Robert P. Carroll, The Book of Jeremiah (Philadelphia:  Westminster, 1986):  463-474.


Hebrews 11:29–12:2
Surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who by faith experienced miracles and endured persecutions, Christians look to Jesus to endure hardship so that, with him, they might share in the glory to come.

After defining faith as the opposite of what is seen, the author began his long list of faith examples from the Hebrew Bible.  He illustrated faith by starting with Abel, who though dead is still speaking through faith.  The list continues to include Enoch who did not see death but lives with God, then Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses.  While they did not receive the fulfillment of God’s promise, because of their faith God has reserved a heavenly city for them.

V. 1.  ogkon apothemenoi panta = “let us lay aside every impediment”:  The expression appears only here in the NT.

V. 2.  tēs pisteōs archēgon kai teleiōtēn = “the originator and perfecter of faith”:  The term archēgos appears elsewhere in NT only at 2:10 where Jesus is described as archēgon tēs sōtērias = the originator of salvation.”


Luke 12:49-56
Committed to establishing the promised kingdom, God sent Jesus Christ not merely to save and comfort but to judge the earth as well, pitting even family members against one another.

Still on the way between Galilee and Jerusalem, Jesus turned from speaking to the multitudes (12:1-21) to addressing his disciples about God’s care for them and about God’s desire to give the kingdom to those who are ready.  Now Jesus continues talking to the disciples (vv. 49-53) before turning once again to address the crowds (vv. 54-59).


Parallel Passage:  Matthew 10:34-36

Key Words
V. 49.  pur = “fire”:  The functions of fire in OT are [1] sign of the presence of God (Exod. 3:2; 19:18; Isa. 31:9); [2] purification from disease (Lev. 13:52); [3] ritual purification (Num. 31:23); and [4] judgment (Gen. 19:24; Isa. 33:14; 43:2; Jer. 23:29).

V. 50.  baptisma echō baptisthēnai = “I have a baptism to be baptized (with)”:  See Luke 3:16 where Jesus will baptize with the fire of eschatological judgment. Recall also Jesus’ question to the sons of Zebedee about their ability to endure the baptism that Jesus himself faces (Mark 10:38).

V. 50.  pōs synechomai = “how I am distressed/absorbed”:  The word appears elsewhere in Luke:  4:38 (“tormented” by a high fever; also 28:8); 8:37 (“seized” with terror); 8:45 (the multitudes “crowd” you); 19:43 (enemies “crowd” you); 22:63 (“were holding in custody”). The author uses the word also in Acts: 7:57 (“closed” ears); 18:5 (“absorbed” in the word).

V. 51.  diamerismon = “division, disunity”:  The verb forms follow in vv. 52-53 as the opposite of “peace.” Note the similarity to Micah 7:6 in the description of conflicts that exist, even within families, as they wait for the Day of the Lord.

V. 52.  apo tou nun = “from now on”:  In Luke-Acts, the phrase marks the beginning of the New Age:  1:48; 5:10; 22:18, 69; Acts 18:6.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 85: Lectionary 19 (11 Pentecost), Year C (August 8, 2010) July 22, 2010

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Lectionary 19 (11 Pentecost)

Around the world, people are participating in an internet treasure hunt called geocaching. My daughter, Dana, and her husband, Paul, have recently published a book about the phenomenon (The Joy of Geocaching). Their stories describe what the fuss is all about—what it has meant for people individually and in groups. Well over a million sites contain various treasures. Some geocaches are very tiny, fitting in a hole that might have once contained a bolt, and consist of nothing more than a piece of paper on which the finders register their names. Some geocaches are larger, even ammo boxes, that along with a little tablet for recording the finder’s name and notes, include a collection of items bought in a Dollar Store. My favorite sites are the ones that lead me on paths I have never been, observe things I never noticed, and teach me something I never knew— like moments of history or geological features. Certainly there is the promise of something at the end of the journey, but for me the joy and the challenge is the journey itself. Biblical faith is like that—a journey with a promise for the end but experiences and challenges on the way.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 85: Lectionary 19 (11 Pentecost), Year C.


Psalm 33:12-22
The psalmist calls the righteous to praise and to hope in the Lord because, as Creator of the universe, God looks upon humankind, promises covenant loyalty, and thereby proves to be “our help and shield.”


Genesis 15:1-6
God considers as “righteousness” a faith that trusts and hopes in divine promises in spite of appearances to the contrary.

In Genesis 12:1-3 God promised to Abraham that he would become the father of a great nation.  Since Abraham was 75 years old at the time and his wife Sarah only 10 years younger, they were past the time that such a blessed event could begin.  As they settled in the land of Canaan and sojourned for a time to Egypt, even more years passed by.

Key Words
V. 1.  sākār = “reward”: The word usually translates as “wages.” However, at Isa. 40:10; 62:11; Jer. 31:16 it appears in connection with God’s gift of deliverance from exile in Babylon; striking is Ps. 127:3 in terms of “the fruit of the womb.”

V. 1.  māgēn = “shield”:  Common in Psalms, therefore a cultic term, usually in regard to protection;  part. Interesting are Ps. 84:11; 115:9-11; also Prov. 30:5 where the parallel is “every word of God proves true.” Above all, the psalm for the day confesses confidence in waiting for the Lord, for “he is our help and our shield” (Ps, 33:20).

V. 4.  ’ašer yētsē mimmē‘ekā = “who comes out of your loins”:  For mē‘â as male reproductive organ, see 2 Sam. 7:12; 16:11, etc.,  as female organ = womb, see Gen. 25:23; Isa. 49:1; Ps. 71:6; Ruth 1:11.

V. 6.  wehe’emîn baYHWH = “and he believed in the Lord”:  RSV and NRSV translate “believed the Lord”; see Exod. 14:31; Num. 14:11; 20:12, and often.

V. 6.  wayachšebehâ lô  tsedāqâ = “and he accounted it to him as righteousness”:  chāšab = “account, reckon” is used in cultic situations in which a priest examines and determines the acceptability of a worshiper’s offering (Lev. 7:18; 17:4; Num. 18:27); as a neg. form of our text cf. Ps. 32:2:  “Blessed is the one to whom the Lord does not account iniquity.”

For further commentary see Gerhard von Rad, Genesis, rev. ed., trans. John H. Marks (Philadelphia:  Westminster, 1972):  181-185;  Claus Westermann, Genesis 12-36, trans. John J. Scullion, S.J. (Minneapolis:  Augsburg, 1985):  217-223.


Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
God enables us to believe in him, as Abraham did, apart from the experiences of life, enabling us to redefine reality and pursue life’s journey in faith and trust.

The author ended the previous paragraph with the admonition to endure in faith in order to receive the promise of God.  Now he devotes all of chapter 11 to faith—its definition (Vss. 1-3) and examples of what faith has enabled people, including Abraham, to accomplish.

V. 1.  elpizomenōn hypostasis = “the reality of things hoped for”:  See 1:3 where hypostasis is the “nature” of God (parallel to his doxa = “glory”). At 3:14 “the beginning of hypostasis” refers to the reality of God on which the life of the community is based; at 11:1, therefore, hypostasis is the divine reality present in the faith of the community.  (See Koester, TDNT VIII:  584-88.)  For a different use of the term in Paul, see 2 Cor. 9:4; 11:17.

V. 1.  pragmatōn elegchos ou blepomenōn = “the proof of things one does not see”: The expression seems to mean that the heavenly world alone is reality. The definition of faith, however, recalls Jesus’ words at John 20:29.

V. 3. Pistei nooumen katērtisthai tous aiōnas rēmati thou theou = “By faith we understand that the world(s) was/were created/prepared by the word of God”: At 1:2 the author writes about God’s Son “through whom also he created (epoiēsen) the world(s) (tous aiōnos).” The understanding of God’s creating the world by the word begins, of course, in Genesis 1, but it also occurs at Psalm 33:6. See also Isa. 45:18-19. In the NT, John 1:3 attests to this same belief.

V. 12. kai tauta nenekrōmenou = “and him as good as dead”: The unflattering description of Abraham appears also at Romans 4:19 where Paul describes the patriarch’s faith. At Isaiah 51:2, the prophet calls his readers to remember their parents Abraham and Sarah, “for when he was but one, I called him,…”

V. 12. The quotation about the stars derives from Genesis 15:5, and the combination with the grains of sand has its origin in Genesis 22:17.

V. 13. kai homologēsantes hoti zenoi kai parepidēmoi eisin epi tēs gēs = “and having acknowledged that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth”: Abraham makes such an admission at Genesis 23:4 when he asked the Hittites for a piece of property to bury Sarah. The Apostle Paul alludes to a similar understanding when he describes the Christian’s “commonwealth” as “in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). See v. 16 in the present paragraph.


Luke 12:32-40
God is pleased to give the kingdom, the heavenly treasure, to those who are ready and wait in hope for the indeterminable day.

Still on his journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, Jesus addressed the thousands of multitudes who were stepping on one another in 12:1-21.  At v. 22 Jesus turns his attention specifically to his disciples, admonishing them to put material things in perspective and trust in the loving care of God.  That conversation continues here.

Two Themes
(1)  The gift of the kingdom enables believers to determine what the treasure is and how we get it (vv. 32-34).
(2)  Watchfulness and faithfulness mark the life journey of the believer who knows where the treasure is (vv. 35-40).
(a) Admonition to watchfulness during master’s absence.
(b) Parable about a householder on guard against a burglar.

Key Words
V. 32.  mē phobou = “do not fear”:  The words are common in OT when overwhelming odds seem to face the people of God (Exod. 14:13; Deut. 7:21; 20″1) or when God is present to make an announcement of importance (Gen. 15:1; Isa. 41:14; 43:1; 54:4).  Common also in Luke: 1:13; 2:10; 5:10; 8:50.

V. 32.  eudokēsen ho patēr hymōn = “your Father is pleased”:  See also Gal. 1:15-16; Col. 1:19 for God as the subject of eudokeo.

V. 32.  dounai hymin tēn basileian = “to give you the kingdom”:  Recall Dan. 7:13-14 where the “one like a son of man” (the saints of the Most High, i.e., the faithful martyrs) “was given” the kingdom by the Ancient of Days.

V. 33.  thēsauron … en tois ouranois = “a treasure in the heavens”:  Elsewhere, see Luke 12:21; 16:9; 18:22. Paul refers to the gospel itself as the “treasure” we have in earthen vessels.

V. 35.  hymōn hai osphues periezōsmenoi = “gird your loins”:  Common in OT:  Exod. 12:11; 1 Kings 18:46; 2 Kings 4:29; 9:1 for tucking up the robe and moving on quickly.

For further commentary see Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J. The Gospel According to Luke (X-XXIV).  The Anchor Bible.  (New York:  Doubleday, 1985):  977-989.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 84: Lectionary 18 (10 Pentecost), Year C (August 1, 2010) July 17, 2010

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Lectionary 18 (10 Pentecost)

Nothing, it seems, makes people more anxious than the daily gyrations in the stock market. The precipitous drops in the Dow Jones raise our insecurity levels over our pensions, our budgets, our present life-styles, and our well-strategized futures. All that is completely understandable for life in the world. The problem is that our stress over our attempts at security can rob us of the opportunity to receive what God is so willingly giving away free!

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 84: Lectionary 18 (10 Pentecost), Year C.


Psalm 49:1-12
The poem, accompanied with music according to verse 4, is a wisdom psalm. The disharmony of the whole piece, however, is the fact that the composer uses all the ingredients at the disposable of an ancient wisdom teacher to put wisdom in its place. The song attacks the traditional teaching of wisdom that success is a matter of learning and doing all the right things. The tradition teaches that the good are rewarded and the wicked are punished. Yet the refrain in this psalm is that “Mortals cannot abide in their pomp; they are like the animals that perish” (vss. 12, 20). Only one verse in the song of instruction provides the answer to this human dilemma: “”But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me” (v. 15).


Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23
The Preacher, impersonating King Solomon who was known for wisdom and pleasure, concludes, after having experienced both, that both are worthless goals in life even if both are gifts from God.

In this first part of the book the Preacher judges everything to be vanity, that is, worthless striving.  Even the processes of nature are part of a monotonous cycle.  Portraying himself as King Solomon who had gained all that the human imagination could hope for, the Preacher indicates that he put all his wisdom and wealth and pleasure to the test, and discovered they were not worth the trouble in attaining them.

Key Words
2:18-24.  ‘āmēl = “labor” and “the results of labor”:  Here the Hebrew word is used with both meanings, thus “labor” and “wealth.”

2:19.  leya’ēš = “to despair”:  The same root word appears at Jer. 2:25; 18:12; Isa. 57:10 to express hopelessness.


Colossians 3:1-11
God calls those who have been baptized into Christ’s death and raised to a new humanity to live according to their identity in the name of Christ.

Beginning at 2:20 the author attempts to define what the new life in Christ means for the believer, particularly in terms of the contrast with the ways of the world.  According to the final verses of chapter 2, submission to regulations is part of worldly attitude which the Christian is to leave.

Key Words
V. 2.  ta anō … ta epi tēs gēs = “things above … things on earth”:  The “earthly things” are described in vv. 5, 8, 9;  the contrast appears in vv. 12-17.

V. 3.  apethanete = “you have died”:  According to  2:20, by baptism Christians died to the “elemental spirits of the universe”;  cf. Rom. 6:4; 7:4; 2 Cor. 14-15.

V. 5.  nekrōsate oun ta melē = “therefore mortify your limbs”:  What follows seems to mean immoral use of our limbs; cf. 1 Cor. 6:15.

V. 5.  tēn pleonexian hētis estin eidōlolatria = “covetousness which is idolatry”:  See the same formula at Eph. 5:5; for the relationship of pleonexia and sins of sensuality, see 1 Cor. 5:10; 6:10; 2 Pet. 2:14.

V. 10.  kat’ eikona tou ktisantos auton = “according to the image of its Creator”:  cf. Gen. 1:27; also Col. 1:15.


Luke 12:13-21
Against our attempts to fragment ourselves and establish our importance in material possessions, God, Jesus the teacher tells us, requires of us to seek the kingdom and enjoy the nurturing of God.

Parallel Passage:  Psalm 49

Before addressing the multitudes, Jesus warned his disciples about Pharisaic hypocrisy, about whom to fear, and about denying him. To be avoided, Jesus teaches, is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, even when on trial. Now Luke, sometimes called “the gospel for the poor,” reports Jesus’ teaching about the vanity of wealth.

Key Words
V. 13.  tēn klēronomian = “the inheritance”:  See Num. 27:1-11; for the double portion of the inheritance assigned to the first-born and for the death penalty on one who complains about it (see also Deut. 21:15-21).

V. 14.  tis me katestēsen kritēn ē meristēn eph’ hymas = “Who made me judge and divider over you?”:  cf. Exod. 2:14 where the words Tis se katestēsen archonta kai dikastēn eph hēmōn = “Who made you ruler and judge over us” are addressed to Moses.

V. 15.  pleonexias = “covetousness”:  At Col. 3:5 and Eph. 5:5 the form of covetousness is idolatry.

V. 20.  “Whose will they be?”:  See Ps. 39:6:  “one who heaps up and knows not who will gather”;  cf. also Eccles. 2:18-19.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 83: Lectionary 17 (9 Pentecost), Year C (July 25, 2010) July 11, 2010

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Lectionary 17 (9 Pentecost)

Like Liza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, “I’m so sick of words,” especially my own, I admit. We hear thousands of words every day—words about the weather, the economy, the local and worldwide sports events, politics. We listen to words that range from brilliant to stupid. We stress over some words and laugh over others. We “get words all day,” says Liza. So does God! Yet God does not seem to get sick of our words. In fact, the biblical records indicate that God keeps inviting words. God seems particularly pleased when we use our words for the sake of others. The strange thing is that God keeps responding to our words and so keeps getting more of them. That response we call God’s Word, and if we would stop listening to all the people talk, then we might miss out on what God is saying to us even in the midst of the superabundance of their words.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 83: Lectionary 17 (9 Pentecost), Year C.


Psalm 138
The psalm of thanksgiving celebrates the realization that God answers prayers.  In doing so God enables the worshiper to see that his/her salvation is part of the ongoing work of God that reaches out to the lowly.  The recognition of this saving work causes even the kings of the earth to acknowledge the power and glory of God.  The experience of answered prayer leads the worshiper to plead that God’s work never cease.


Genesis 18:20-32
Because of the divine promise given to Abraham, God revealed the purpose for the visit to Sodom and Gomorrah, allowing Abraham to advocate for those cities so that God remembers the promises about a nation.

Genesis 12:1-3 announced to the Israel of the Davidic-Solomonic period both God’s promises to Abraham and Sarah and God’s use of them to be the source of blessing for the families of the land.  In 18:16-19 God deliberates over that call and responsibility.

Key Words
V. 18.  we’abrāhām hāyô yihyeh legôy gādôl we‘ātsûm wenibrekû bô kōl gôyê hā’ārets = “and Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed by him”:  Note the repetition of the promise at Gen. 12:3; 22:17, 18; 26:4; 28:14; Gal. 3:8.

V. 19.  kî yeda‘tîw = “for I have known him”:  For Hebrew yd‘ as entering into an intimate relationship, see Gen. 4:1; 19:8; then see Amos 3:2.

Vv. 20-21. za‘aqat sedōm wa‘amōrâ = “cry for help of Sodom and Gomorrah”:  za‘aqâ/tsa‘a is a technical term designating a cry for help in the face of injustice or oppression; cf. Exod. 3:7; Deut. 22:23-27; Judg. 3:9; Job 19:7; Ps. 72:12; Isa. 30:18-19.  It is a cry from the oppressed rather than indignation against sexual immorality.  The nature of Sodom’s sin in prophetic memory and tradition seems to have been injustice against the poor in the courts, failure to care for the poor and needy, and infidelity to YHWH (see Isa. 1:10-17; 3:9; Jer. 23:14; Ezek. 16:49).

Vv. 22-32.  The entire negotiation on Abraham’s part for the benefit of Sodom and Gomorrah needs to be seen in light of a verse that is not included in our pericope, i.e., v. 18.

V. 25.  hašōphēt kol-hā’ārets lô’ ya‘asê mišpāt = “shall the one who is responsible for justice (in) all the earth not do what is just?”:  For the close connection between YHWH and mišpāt (justice) see Isa. 30:18; Deut. 32:4; Ps. 89:14; 97:2; 111:7; Job 8:3; 34:12; 37:23, and often.


Colossians 2:6-15 (16-19)
Against all human attempts to inject foreign influences into the gospel of Jesus Christ, the author argues that in Christ we already have the fullness of life and the source of nourishment for growth that is from God.

These verses indicate that the motive for writing this letter was to combat the enticements of heresies that were creeping into the gospel which brought the church at Colossae into being.


Luke 11:1-13
Jesus provides to those who would pray the privilege to call God Father, so that they can ask for and expect the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Somewhere between Galilee and Jerusalem, after Jesus had visited the home of Mary and Martha, Jesus spoke these words.

Key Words
V. 1.  en topō tini = “in a certain place”:  In Luke’s Gospel, topos is not so much a description of a locale as a space in which Jesus can be interrupted; cf. Luke 4:42; 9:12; 22:40; 23:33.

V. 1.  proseuchomenon = “praying”:  The act of prayer is an emphasis throughout Luke’s Gospel: cf. 3:21; 6:12; 9:28-29; 22:41-46.

V. 2.  Pater = “Father”:  In the OT God is called “Father” both in terms of the people of Israel (Exod. 4:22-23; Jer. 31:9 [cf. 3:19]) and of the Davidic king (2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 89:26).

V. 3.  to kath’ hēmeran = “daily”; cf. Matt. 6:11:  sēmeron = “today.” Luke saves the word sēmeron for eschatological purposes (2:11; 4:21; 19:9; 23:43).

V. 4.  tas hamartias hēmōn = “our sins”:  cf. Matt. 6:12:  ta opheilēmata hēmōn = “our trespasses.”

V. 13.  ho patēr ex ouranou = “the Father from heaven”:  Note connection with v. 2, now with the addition of “from heaven” (cf. Matt. 6:9).

V. 13.  pneuma hagion = “Holy Spirit”:  The gift of the Holy Spirit now is held out to all who pray to God.  Thus far in Luke, the Holy Spirit was granted to a select few:  Mary (1:35), Zechariah (1:67), Simeon (2:26), Jesus (3:22; 4:1, 14, 18).  Now Luke anticipates the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2).

Wrestling with the Word, episode 82: Lectionary 16 (8 Pentecost), Year C (July 18, 2010) July 8, 2010

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Lectionary 16 (8 Pentecost)

In ancient times, hospitality was the means by which people cared for one another. Lacking Holiday Inns and McDonalds, the people opened to hungry travelers their kitchens and the shelter of their roofs. The practice was both functional and honorable. In more modern times the concept has taken spiritual form, especially in the writings of Henri Nouwen. In his book Reaching Out, Nouwen writes of the obligation of Christians “to offer an open and hospitable space where strangers can cast off their strangeness and become our fellow human beings.” Biblically speaking, the hospitality that undergirds all our openness — physical and spiritual — to others, even strangers, is that of God. God the Father and God the Son welcome and serve people in order to be faithful to their promises.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 82: Lectionary 16 (8 Pentecost), Year C.


Psalm 15
Like Psalm 24 and other pilgrimage psalms, this one begins with the question on the part of the pilgrim about qualifications to enter the sanctuary of the Lord.  Far more than a building, the sanctuary is the earthly home of God where the Lord offers hospitality to the afflicted and to the humble. What follows the question of verse 1 is the answer of the priest in verses 2-5. Strikingly, the entrance ticket is not about ritual but ethical or moral requirements.  The assumption here is that humans are indeed capable of obedience, and that through their obedience they can enjoy the hospitality of God.


Genesis 18:1-10a
Against the attempts of Abraham and Sarah to take the matter of progeny into their own hands and in spite of the laughing response, God, the guest, serves the aging couple by restating the promise of progeny made to them twenty-four years earlier.

The first set of God’s promises to Abraham and Sara appear in Genesis 12:1-3. Among them is the promise that they will become “a great nation.” The first step toward realizing that promise requires the birth of their own children. Chapter 15:1-6 reports the attempt on the part of Abraham to adopt a son in order that they might have an heir, but God reiterates the promise that his own son will be born and through him a multitude of descendants will grow. Chapter 16 tells of the attempt of Abraham and Sarah to have a child through her maid Hagar. God responds negatively to both attempts, insisting once more (chap.17) that the promised heir will be born to the aging couple.

Key Words
V. 1.  be’ēlōnê mamrē’ = “by the oaks of Mamre”:  At 14:13, 24 Mamre is the name of an Amorite who was the brother of Eshcol and Aner.

Vv. 4-5.  “let a little water be brought … a morsel of bread”:  In contrast to the meager offerings, Abraham and Sarah prepare a feast of cakes, meat, curds, and milk.  The action is typical of Middle Eastern hospitality to invite as though it is no bother to the host and then to serve much more.

V. 10.  wehinne-bēn lesārâ ’ištekā = “behold, a son will be to Sarah your wife”:  At 17:19 the words are sârâ’ištekā yōledet lekā bēn = “Sarah your wife is bearing for you a son.”  The implication of the participle in 17:19 is that Sarah is already pregnant; see the use of the participle in the same sense at Isa. 7:14.  In any case, the promise is used by Paul at Rom. 9:9 to emphasize the role of God’s promise.

V. 10.  kā‘ēt chayyâ = “at the living time”: The time is the spring, when the animals bear their young and the crops grow in the fields; cf. 2 Kings 4:16, 17 in connection with the birth of a child.


Colossians 1:15-28
On the basis of the identity of Christ as God’s image and his role in creation and redemption, God’s salvation extends to all, along with the responsibilities the gospel entails.

Having written the salutation and the first part of the prayer for the community’s steadfastness (vv. 9-20), the author now expresses the reason for his interest in the Colossians.

Structure of verses 15-20:  a hymn of two stanzas

Stanza one                                                        Stanza two

the image of the invisible God                the head of the body, the church

the first-born of all creation                   the first-born from the dead

for in him all things                                for in him all the fullness of God

through him all things were                    and through him to reconcile to

created through him and for him                      himself all things

Key Words
V. 19.  eudokēsan pan to plērōma katoikēsai = “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”:  God is pleased with his Son (Matt.3:17 and parallels; 17:5).  God is pleased to “give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).  God is pleased to “save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21).  God “was pleased to reveal his Son to” Paul (Gal. 1:15).


Luke 10:38-42
In response to the frustration of those who “do” service continually, Jesus calls for hearing his word as the “good portion” which will not be taken away.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan (vv. 25-37) dealt with the need to do service for the needy neighbor; now comes a warning about the frustrations of such service when one does not avail oneself of hearing the word of God as well.  As for the sisters Mary and Martha, while they have attained fame through this story, they appear nowhere else in Luke’s Gospel. However, they figure prominently in John (John 11–12) about the resurrection of Lazarus, their brother and the anointing of Jesus in advance for his burial.  When Jesus arrived at their home in Bethany, it was Martha who spoke with him first while Mary sat in the house (John 11:20).

Key Words
V. 38.  eis kōmēn tina = “a certain village”:  According to John 11:1ff; 12:2f., Martha and Mary lived in Bethany.  For Luke’s purposes, the location is so close to Jesus’ final destination in Jerusalem that he leaves the village unnamed.

V. 39.  ēkouen ton logon autou = “she listened to his word”:  The traditional role of the woman is broken here, and the change is affirmed by Jesus.  To “sit at the feet of” a master teacher appears at Acts 22:3 to describe Paul’s education as a Jew by Gamaliel.

V. 41.  merimnas kai thorubazē = “anxious and troubled”:  On “anxious” see 1 Cor. 7:32-35; also Matt. 5:27-34.

V. 42.  tēn agathēn merida = “the good portion”:  The expression sometimes occurs as a metaphor derived from a diner’s menu; see Gen. 43:34. The metaphor is appropriate in the context of the hospitality they offer Jesus and Jesus offers them.