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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.

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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.

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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.

Context
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.

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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.

Context
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).

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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.

Context
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.