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Wrestling with the Word, episode 89: Lectionary 23 (15 Pentecost), Year C (September 5, 2010) August 17, 2010

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Lectionary 23 (15 Pentecost)

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus proves to be a chip off the old block. Whatever God does in the Old Testament, Jesus does in the New. The names for God in the Hebrew Bible become the names the early church used also for Jesus. And when it comes to faithfulness or discipleship, YHWH and Jesus insist on unswerving allegiance. Following that kind of God costs a great deal, but what God promises is life that is just out of sight!

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 89: Lectionary 23 (15 Pentecost), Year C.

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Psalm 1
The first psalm in the Bible is a wisdom psalm, like 112, 119, 127, 128, and 133. Wisdom teaching, found also throughout the Book of Proverbs, teaches the simple doctrine that the good (the wise) are rewarded with health and wealth, but the wicked (the fools) are destined for destruction. Reactions to this doctrine appear in the Book of Job and in Ecclesiastes. In the Psalter itself, such reactions appear in Psalm 49 (see Lectionary 18 [10 Pentecost] in Episode 84) and Psalm 73. This first psalm promises blessing for those who “delight in the torah of the Lord and meditate on the torah day and night.” Standing as the lead psalm, it establishes the context of the entire Psalter as fidelity to the instruction of the Lord. The benefits of this “righteousness” are fruitful and continuing life (v. 3). The wicked will not be acquitted in the court of God’s law (v. 5) and will, therefore, “perish” (v. 6).

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Deuteronomy 30:15-20
In setting before the people the decision to choose life or death, God exhorts the people to choose life and provides the means by which that life might be achieved.

Context
Chapters 27-28 of Deuteronomy list the blessings and curses which the people of Israel can expect on the basis of the keeping or disobeying the laws in 12—26.  Chapters 29—30 admonish the people of Israel to follow the same instructions, indicating in the paragraph prior to our pericope that keeping the instructions is not impossible.

Key Words
Vv. 15, 16, 18, 19.  hayyôm = “today”:  The use of the word throughout the book conveys the contemporary nature of YHWH’s address to Israel. It gives the impression the book is intended to preach to the people of a different day from that of Moses.

Vv. 15, 19.  chayyîm = “life”:  The choice God offers is between life and death, between good and harm. As the pericope progresses to its end, the real issue is worship of YHWH over against the worship of other deities; thus “YHWH is your life and length of days,” and idols are death and harm.

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Philemon 1-21
On the basis of our common faith in Christ, God changes the nature of all relationships so that even slaves and masters become siblings in Christ.

Key Words
V. 10.  Onēsimon = “Onesimus”: The name means “useful, allowing Paul to play on word in the following verse where euchrēston = “useful” is used to describe one who is named “Useful.” See also v. 20 where Paul uses the related word onaimēn where it is translated by RSV/NRSV as “benefit.”

V. 10.  Onesimos:  At Col. 4:9 he is called “the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of yourselves.” This verse is sometimes used to demonstrate that Philemon released his slave in order to join in the missionary work of the gospel.

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Luke 14:25-33
As a warning to those multitudes who would casually follow Jesus, Christ asserts that discipleship means the willingness to forsake all other relationships, one’s self, and possessions that might cause conflict of interest.

Context
The preceding verses told of Jesus’ instruction to the Pharisees at the dinner to which he was invited.  That instruction concluded with the Parable of the Great Banquet at which he emphasized the invitation of the kingdom to people of various sorts and in a variety of places. Now once more, Jesus defines the radical cost of discipleship.

Parallel Passages:  Matthew 10:37-38; Mark 10:29

Key Words
V. 26.  ei tis … ou misei = “if someone … does not hate”:  For misein as the opposite of agapēn = “love,” see 16:13. For hate as the attitude of outsiders toward Christians, see 6:22, 27.  Compare Genesis 29:30-33 where because Jacob is said to have loved Rachel more than Leah, the latter is said to be “hated.”  Likewise, in a similar situation at Deut. 21:15-17 the wife who is not loved is “disliked” (RSV/NRSV), a trans. of the verb misein. The version of this verse at Matt. 10:37 softens the condition by describing the problem as “loving more” the family member than Jesus. [Mark’s version is the least offensive since it speaks only of leaving family members “for my sake and the gospel” (Mark 10:29)]. In any case, the content follows from Jesus’ demands at 12:52-53 and his call to discipleship at 9:59-62. The difficulty is balancing this demand to “hate” family members with the command to love our neighbors as ourselves (see Luke 10:27) and to acknowledge our closest neighbors as the members of our families. Further, the author of 1 John writes that people who say they love God but “hate” (misē) their neighbors are liars (1 John 4:20). Indeed, the author interprets God’s command as follows: “those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also” (v. 21).

V. 26.  ou dynatai einai mou mathētēs = “will not be able to be my disciple”:  The exact words repeated at vss. 27, 33.  Note the use of dynatai at 16:13 where “love” and “hate” appear as well in the context of God or mammon.

V. 26. eti te kai tēn psychēn heautou = “and yes, even his own life”: The words reflect Jesus’ teaching about cross-bearing at Mark 8:34: “let them deny themselves.” The prayer that Jesus taught the disciples to pray contains the words “your will be done” as an indication of self-surrender to God’s will.

V. 27.  hostis ou bastazei ton stauron heautou = “whoever does not bear his own cross”:  Recall 9:23.  stauros means an upright stake, used in ancient times as a means of torture and death by impaling or crucifying the victim.  Bastazein = carry” has no particular meaning in Luke.

V. 33.  pas ex hymōn hos ouk apotassetai pasin tois heautou hyparchousin = “whoever among you does not say farewell to everything that belongs to him”:  Note that apotassō = “say farewell” is used in the same sense at 9:61.  The same teaching appears at 12:33-34 where the treasures of this earth fail but that of the kingdom of heaven remains. At 18:22 Jesus commands the ruler to sell everything he owns and give it to the poor so that he “will have treasure in heaven.” However, at 18:30 Jesus implies that by leaving everything that he lists in our pericope a person will “get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” In Luke’s second volume, the Book of Acts, he reports the fidelity of early Christians to these demands of Jesus (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37).