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Wrestling with the Word, episode 92: Lectionary 26 (18 Pentecost), Year C (September 26, 2010) September 10, 2010

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Lectionary 26 (18 Pentecost)

The summer vacations have come to their annual end, and so have the emails or phone calls from family and friends that so often include the words “Wish you were here!” On the one hand, the cliché makes me jealous of their experiences. On the other hand, precisely because they are family and friends, I rejoice both over their good fortune and over the affirmation they give me by wishing I were there. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if they did not offer their love and concern with such words. I wonder also how many people in the world never hear those words “Wish you were here.” How many people go through life with the feeling that others wished they were not here? How many people are treated in such a way that their being here is not even noticed? Mother Teresa put it like this:

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody,
I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat…. We must find each other.”

Our lessons for today call on us to recall that God honors the unnoticed in the world and that God calls us to honor them as well by showing them we are delighted they are here.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 92: Lectionary 26 (18 Pentecost), Year C .

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Psalm 146
The psalm, like Psalms 113-118, qualifies as a Hallel psalm, that is, a psalm of praise that begins with “Hallelujah.” This praise begins (vss. 1-2) with a summons to one’s own “soul” to praise the Lord for a whole lifetime and to express those praises with song along the way. The individual then instructs an audience with the warning against putting trust in successful persons, because, like all humans, they and their strategies will perish (vss. 3-4). On the other hand, looking to YHWH for help and hope leads to blessing (v. 5), and the psalmist/teacher provides two reasons for that instruction. First, YHWH is the Creator of the universe and all living things on earth, and as Creator, God demonstrates faithfulness by executing justice for the oppressed and by feeding the hungry (vss. 6-7). Second, YHWH is the savior/deliverer who, as in Isaiah 42:7 and 62:1-2, sets prisoners free and opens the eyes of the blind (vss. 7b-8). Further, this God protects strangers in their wanderings and supports the vulnerable orphans and widows, but brings devastation upon the wicked that oppress them (v. 9). The psalm concludes with a summons to the people of Jerusalem to praise YHWH who “will reign forever” (v. 10). The combination of creation and salvation themes within the context of the reign of God betrays dependence on the preaching of Second Isaiah.

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Amos 6:1a, 4-7
Against those who trust for their security in their luxury and conceit, God promises a most insecure future.

Context
In the midst of a variety of judgment speeches, a series of woe-cries beginning with 5:18 describes the nature of the northern kingdom’s behavior which will lead to the inevitable result of disaster.

Key Words
V. 1.  hôy = “woe”:  A woe-oracle is introduced by this particle and always followed by a plural participle describing an action of an unnamed group which leads to God’s judgment. This woe-oracle addresses those who feel all too comfortable both in Jerusalem and in Samaria.

V. 1.  wehabbōtechîm = “and who trust”:  For the problem of trusting in things which give false security see Prov. 11:28; 14:16.

V. 2.  Calneh … Hamath … Gath:  These cities were conquered by the Assyrian Tiglath-Pileser III between 738 and 734 B.C.

V. 3.  hamenaddîm leyôm rā‘ = “who keep thrusting aside the evil day”:  The series of oracles requires that we assume a hôy = “woe” before the participle. For the “evil day,” see the interesting saying at Prov. 16:4: “YHWH.has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble” (leyōm rā‘ā).

V. 3.  šebet chāmās = “throne/seat or cessation of violence”:  For šebet (root šābat) as “cessation,” see Exod. 21:19; Prov. 20:3; šebet (root yāšab) as “that on which one is enthroned,” see 1 Kings 10:19 = 2 Chron. 9:18.

V. 4. haššōkebîm ‘al-mittôt šēn ûserûchîm ‘al-‘aršōtām = “who lie upon beds of ivory and sprawl upon their couches”: In light of the participles in the continuing series, the “woe to” must be read here, as it is in most translations.

V. 6. welō’ nechlû ‘al-šēber yōsēp = “but have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph”: Here lies the reason for the “woe.” In the midst of their luxurious lifestyles, they pay no attention to the suffering of the people who live in the territory that traditionally belonged to the tribe of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh).

V. 7.  lākēn = “therefore”:  When following a description of the activity of people, “therefore” almost always introduces a judgment of YHWH.

V. 7.  berōš gōlîm = “at the head of the exiles”:  See the play on words with rēšît hagôyyîm = “head/first of the nations” in v. 1 and werēšît šemānîm = “head/first (finest) of the oils” at v. 6.

V. 7.  wesār mizrach serûchîm = “and the revelry of sprawlers will pass away”:  Note the play with “those who sprawl (serûchîm) upon their beds” to whom the “woe” is addressed in v. 4. Now it will “pass away.”

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1 Timothy 6:6-19
Exhorting Timothy to shun the false teaching about the love of money, the apostle instructs him aim at the qualities that God loves and to charge the rich to set their hopes on God in whom they can be certain of a sure foundation for the future.

Context
The apostle brings his epistle to a conclusion by giving Timothy advice regarding the dangers of loving wealth and a charge to the wealthy that they should express their faith by showing they are “rich in good deeds, liberal and generous.”

“Even the rich are hungry for love, for being cared for, for being wanted, for having someone to call their own.”  –Mother Teresa

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Luke 16:19-31
Addressing those who love money, Jesus warns of future shock by providing a story of eschatological transformations for the rich who neglect the poor and for the poor who are neglected.

Context
In chapter 15 Luke has Jesus telling the Pharisees and scribes the parable about the son who had squandered his wealth.  In chapter 16 (vv. 1-13) Jesus relates to the disciples the parable about the dishonest manager. There he includes the note about making friends by means of their unrighteous wealth so that “they may receive you into the tents of eternity.”  At 16:14-18 Jesus turns again to address the Pharisees, identified as “lovers of money,” on the continuing value of the Torah.  Now still speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus tells of the rich man and Lazarus.

Key Words
V. 19.  anthrōpos de tis ēn plousios = “there was a certain rich man”:  The words are identical to 16:1, the beginning of the Parable of the Dishonest Steward.

V. 19.  euphrainomenos kath’ hēmeran lamprōs = “who kept on enjoying himself splendidly every day”:  On euphrainomenos as a favorite in Luke, see 12:19 (“be merry”); 15:23, 24, 29, 32 (“make merry”). While lamprōs appears in this form only here, see ta lampra = “splendid things” in which the rich delight at Rev. 18:14.

V. 20.  ptōchos = “a poor man”:  For the contrast between “rich” and “poor” in Luke’s Gospel, see 1:53; 6:20, 24; for Jesus as bringer of good news to the “poor,” see also 4:18-20; 7:22.

V. 20.  Lazarus:  a form of the Hebrew name ’El‘azar = “God has helped.” The Hebrew word for “help” is the one used at Psalm 146:5 (in parallel to “hope”) where blessing is promised to those who look to YHWH as their “help” “and hope.”

V. 22.  eis ton kolpon Abraham = “to the bosom of Abraham”:  For one’s bosom as a place of endearment, see the place of Christ at John 1:18 and the disciple Jesus loved at 13:23. In OT see Num. 11:12; Deut. 13:6; 28:54, 56.

V. 24, 30.  pater Abraam = “father Abraham”:  See John 8:33, 37 for the paternity claim of the Judaeans to Jesus.

V. 25.  nun de hōde parakaleitai = “but now he is comforted”:  The passive denotes that God is the comforter; see Isa. 40:1; 51:3; above all see 2 Cor. 1:3-4.

V. 26.  chasma mega estēriktai = “a great chasm has been fixed”:  Once again, Luke uses a theological passive. As for the chasm, contrast Gen. 28:12 where “the ladder” (actually “the mound”) connects heaven and earth.

V. 29. “They have Moses and the prophets”: The reference to Moses, of course, is to the Torah, the “book of Moses: and “the law of Moses” where laws about caring for the poor and afflicted abound; see, e.g., the Book of the Covenant at Exod. 21—23; the priestly laws at Lev. 25; the Code of Deuteronomy, especially Deut. 24. As for the prophets, their preaching against the injustice done to the poor and oppressed fill the pages of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, and Micah.