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Wrestling with the Word, episode 26: Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year B (June 21, 2009) June 4, 2009

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

It seems difficult enough these days to talk about God as the Creator of the universe and everything in it. Such a basic confession does not seem possible for those who insist that everything they believe must be observable, measurable, and repeatable. How much more challenging is it today to speak of Jesus as both divine and human? I suspect it is not any more difficult today than it was two thousand years ago. The early apostles and disciples, the early church, tried all kinds of formulas and confessions. But sometimes nothing works better than a powerful story. The story about Jesus calming the sea is our topic for the day.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 26: Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year B.

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Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32
The psalm, a thanksgiving which follows lament, celebrates the deliverance of those who, caught in the fear of the tossing sea, cried to the Lord and were rescued when he stilled the storm and hushed the waves of the sea.  The verb used to describe this action in other places is gā’ar = “rebuke” (see Ps. 18:15; 104:7; Isa. 50:2; Nah. 1:4).

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Job 38:1-11
Pointing to his work of creating the world, God announces superiority over the human who questions the divine ways.

Context
Throughout the dialogues Job challenges the Lord to a legal contest to prove he is suffering unjustly. His friends have been expounding the traditional answer about suffering:  the good are rewarded and the wicked punished. According to their wisdom, Job is responsible to learn what the sin is so that he might repent.

Key Words
V. 4.  ’ēphô hāyîtâ beyosdî-’ārets = “where were you at the foundations of the earth”:  At Isa. 48:13 the Lord is the one who laid out those foundations and also established the heavens. For the three-storied universe, see also Phil. 2:10.

V. 7.  “all the sons of God shouted for joy”:  The presence of a multiplicity of beings around the throne of God appears in a variety of forms in the OT. At Isa. 6 there are the strange-looking seraphim. At 1 Kings 22 they are spirits. At Job 1 they are divine beings, among them Satan. At Ps. 29 they are also divine beings, sons of God, who indeed are called to ascribe glory and strength to the Lord.

Vv. 8-11.  “shut in the sea with doors … prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, … here shall your proud waves be stayed”:  The imagery is strikingly similar to the Babylonian myth about Marduk’s victory over Tiamat (the Deep) and to the Canaanite myth about the victory of Baal over Yamm (Sea).  Such allusions appear also in Job at 26:11-13 (cf. then 9:9, 13; see also Ps. 74:13-14; 89:9-10, 25; Isa. 50:2; 51:9-10; Nahum 1:3b-4; Hab. 3:8, 13-15). The control over the forces of water indicate the reign of God over chaos.

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2 Corinthians 6:1-13
In this new age of salvation which has already dawned, God turns what the world considers to be failure into accomplishment through faithful ministry and open hearts.

Context
The apostle has concluded chapter 5 by citing the ministry of reconciliation which is endowed on all who have become a new creation in Christ.  He regards as a new time all that has ensued since the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the time of the kingdom in which we ourselves are new and in which we regard others in a new way also.

Key Words
V. 2.  kairō dektō  epēkousa sou kai en hēmera sōtērias eboēthēsa soi = “at an acceptable time I have listened to you and on a day of salvation I have helped you”:  The NRSV eliminates the RSV‘s definite articles, thus its rendering is more akin to the Greek text and to the Hebrew of Isa. 49:8 of which it is a quotation. The omission of the article makes less certain that the expression refers to the eschatological day of the Lord.

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Mark 4:35-41
Jesus’ calming of the sea accomplishes the promised end-time victory of God over the chaos that threatens to wreak lives and destroy God’s rule.

Context
At 4:1 Mark indicates a new section by reference to Jesus teaching “beside the sea.”  The teaching consists of five parables about the kingdom of God.  The stage is thus set for the action at the sea in terms of the day of the Lord which inaugurates the kingdom of God.

Key Words
V. 35.  en ekeinē  tē hēmera = “on that day”: This phrase appears in the LXX for the day of the Lord on which God will be victorious over the forces of evil; cf. especially Isa. 27:1.

V. 39.  epetimēsen tō anemō kai eipen tē thalassē, siōpa, pephimōso = “he rebuked the wind and said to the sea, `Peace, be still'”:  All this is to be seen as one act, not two, as can be demonstrated by the rebuking of the demons at 1:25 and by the parallel account at Matt. 8:27. Other objects of rebuke in Mark are thus the demons (1:25) and Satan in the form of Peter (8:33).  Essential to the interpretation of this passage is the recognition that in the OT the verb epitimaō = “rebuke” (Heb. gā‘ar) is used legitimately only by Yahweh. Thus, in the NT it is used legitimately only by the Son of God (note the problem at Mark 8:32).

V. 41.  tis ara houtos estin = “Who then is this”: The entire story is told in order to explain who Jesus is and what he is accomplishing in terms of the victory of the Day of the Lord.  The disciples’ failure to comprehend is typical of their response in Mark’s Gospel. See the similar lack of understanding at 6:51-52; 9:5-6.

For further discussion of order versus chaos, please see my text Ancient Myths and Biblical Faith published by Fortress Press in 1983 and rereleased in 2007.

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Looking Ahead
Lessons for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B:
Psalm 30
Lamentations 3:22-33
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43