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Wrestling with the Word, episode 87: Lectionary 21 (13 Pentecost), Year C (August 22, 2010) August 3, 2010

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Lectionary 21 (13 Pentecost)

Far from programming us to live our days as mindless robots, God gives us freedom to make choices. Those freedoms, the Bible tells us, force us to make responsible decisions about priorities for doing the will of God. Our lessons for this day challenge us to choose between two of God’s commandments when they conflict with each other: the keeping of the sabbath and the love for our neighbors.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 87: Lectionary 21 (13 Pentecost), Year C.

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Psalm 103:1-8
The psalm is a combination of a thanksgiving and hymn. It begins by calling upon the poet’s innermost being to bless the Lord for forgiving the individual’s sins and healing diseases, saving the worshiper from the clutches of death, and crowning the redeemed person with God’s loyalty and mercy. In verse 6 the psalm moves into the hymn, describing God as the one who establishes justice for the oppressed, even as the Lord revealed the entire torah to Moses. The words of verse 8 echo the self-revelation of God to Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:6). As the psalm continues, the experience of the individual and the call to praise extends to the whole universe.

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Isaiah 58:9b-14
God promises the people of Israel divine guidance, light, restoration of city, delight, and nourishment on the conditions that they treat one another with respect and sharing and that they honor the Lord’s sabbath.

Context
The prophet called Third Isaiah faced the difficult problem of preaching the faithfulness of God when the experience of the people was still God’s absence.  The Lord’s absenteeism was all too prevalent during the exile in Babylon, and there it led to the refinement of the lament form.  The expectation preached by Second Isaiah was that the Lord would take them home and that their homecoming would coincide with the unambiguous reign of God over the world.  When they did return to Jerusalem sometime after 538 B.C., however, the scene was a far cry from God’s reign.  Some of the situation is described here.

Key Words
V. 10.  wetāphēq lārā‘ēb naphšekâ [lachmekâ] = “and (if) you pour out yourself [your food] for the hungry”:  The reading of NRSV in brackets is based on Syriac manuscripts; cf. v. 7. The parallelism “and satisfy life of the afflicted” does will fit either reading; the point is obviously the caring of the poor.

V. 10.  wezārach bachōšek ’ôrekā = “then your light will shine in the darkness”:  Whose light will shine? The temptation is to consider YHWH to be “your light” on the basis of 60:1 where “your light” stands in synonymous parallelism with “the glory of the Lord” and 10:17 where “the light of Israel” is parallel to “his Holy One” (cf. 9:2); above all, see 58:8 where “your light” appears to be the same as “your healing,” “your vindicator,” and “the glory of the Lord.”  On the other hand, see wisdom of Job’s friend Zophar at Job 11:17.

V. 11.  wehisbîa‘ betsachtsāchôt naphšekâ = “and he will satisfy your life in parched places”:  Compare this act of God with the expectation in verse 10 regarding the care of the needy.

V. 12.  weqōrā’ lekā gōdēd perets mešōbēb netîbôt lāšābet = “and you shall be called Repairer Of The Breach, Restorer Of Streets To Live In”:  Consider the various names by which Israel and the land will be called thanks to Yahweh’s acts:  “the City of God, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel” (60:14); “My Delight Is In Her,” “Married” (62:4); “The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord,” “Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken”(62:12).

Vv. 13-14.  weqārā’tā laššabbāt ‘ōneg liqdōš YHWH mekubbād  … ’az tit‘annag ‘al-YHWH = “if you call the sabbath a delight, the holy (one) of the Lord honorable … you shall delight in the Lord”:  The blessings correspond to the behavior as is typical of ancient Semitic thinking: What one does comes back to roost on one’s own head. With the repetition of the sabbath here following 56:2, the emphasis on the sabbath frames this section of the book. Surprisingly, prophetic references to the sabbath are few. The speech attributed to Jeremiah at 17:19-27 shows a similar benefit for the people by keeping the sabbath, but there the emphasis, like that of Exodus 16, focuses on the prohibition against work on that day. (For other judgment speeches regarding work and business on the sabbath, see Ezek. 20:12-26; 22:8;, 26; 23:28; Amos 8:5.) On the other hand, the prophet Isaiah reports God’s word that repudiates the sabbaths and new moons and appointed feasts in favor of seeking justice, correcting oppression, and caring for the orphans and the widows (Isa. 1:12-17).

V. 14. kî pî YHWH dibbēr = “for the mouth of the Lord has spoken”: The effectiveness of God’s word—so common in Second Isaiah—assures the people that the prophecy will come true.

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Hebrews 12:18-29
In contrast to the people of Israel who had come to Mount Sinai, Christians have come to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, to Jesus, in order to thank and praise God for an unshakeable kingdom.

Context
Having cited his cloud of witnesses in terms of the Old Testament examples of faith, the author opened chapter 12 with demonstrating that Jesus is the example to be followed, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  The writer indicates that Jesus’ example guides them through times of persecution and challenges them to pursue peace with one another. His concluding words of our pericope call the grateful people of God to “an acceptable worship with reverence and awe.”

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Luke 13:10-17
In response to the needs of the crippled woman, Jesus healed her, even though the law about the sabbath was interpreted to exclude such acts of mercy to people.

Context
Prior to our pericope Jesus had told the parable of the fig tree, indicating the nature of God’s grace to allow sinners one more chance.  Following our pericope Jesus told parables about the kingdom of God:  the Mustard Seed (verses 18-19), the Yeast (verses 20-21), and then teaching about the narrow door which is the entrance to the kingdom of God (verses 22-30).  The context of the last day and the kingdom sets the sabbath law within a brand new understanding.

Key Words
V. 10.  “on the sabbath”:  The pericope focuses not merely on the healing but on the sabbath, particularly Exod. 20:9-10.  The sabbath day played an important role in the stories about Jesus. Elsewhere in Luke, see 4:16, 31; 6:1-5, 6-11; 14:1ff. Clearly Jesus’ repudiation of the sabbath law in chapters 6 and 13 (here) was an issue in the early church that decided on the first day of the week, the day of resurrection, as the day for worship.

V. 11.  gynē pneuma exousa = “a woman having a spirit”:  In verse 16 that “Satan had bound her for eighteen years” indicates the origin of spirits in the New Testament world.  That Satan and his spirits stand against the kingdom of God is attested many times in the gospel stories.

V. 15.  Hypokritai = “Hypocrites”:  The word was used by the Greeks for actors on the stage.  At 6:42 the word describes people who make judgments on others, and at 12:56 Jesus uses the word for the crowds who do not know how to interpret the times.  hyopkrisis = “hypocrisy” at 12:1 is directed at the  Pharisees.

V. 17. autou katēskynonto pantes hoi antikeimenoi autō, kai pas ho ochlos echairen = “all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced”: The use of opposites in Luke’s Gospel is a common method for announcing the effects of kingdom that Jesus came to inaugurate: mighty—low, humble—rich, rich—poor, etc.

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