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Wrestling with the Word, episode 85: Lectionary 19 (11 Pentecost), Year C (August 8, 2010) July 22, 2010

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Lectionary 19 (11 Pentecost)

Around the world, people are participating in an internet treasure hunt called geocaching. My daughter, Dana, and her husband, Paul, have recently published a book about the phenomenon (The Joy of Geocaching). Their stories describe what the fuss is all about—what it has meant for people individually and in groups. Well over a million sites contain various treasures. Some geocaches are very tiny, fitting in a hole that might have once contained a bolt, and consist of nothing more than a piece of paper on which the finders register their names. Some geocaches are larger, even ammo boxes, that along with a little tablet for recording the finder’s name and notes, include a collection of items bought in a Dollar Store. My favorite sites are the ones that lead me on paths I have never been, observe things I never noticed, and teach me something I never knew— like moments of history or geological features. Certainly there is the promise of something at the end of the journey, but for me the joy and the challenge is the journey itself. Biblical faith is like that—a journey with a promise for the end but experiences and challenges on the way.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 85: Lectionary 19 (11 Pentecost), Year C.


Psalm 33:12-22
The psalmist calls the righteous to praise and to hope in the Lord because, as Creator of the universe, God looks upon humankind, promises covenant loyalty, and thereby proves to be “our help and shield.”


Genesis 15:1-6
God considers as “righteousness” a faith that trusts and hopes in divine promises in spite of appearances to the contrary.

In Genesis 12:1-3 God promised to Abraham that he would become the father of a great nation.  Since Abraham was 75 years old at the time and his wife Sarah only 10 years younger, they were past the time that such a blessed event could begin.  As they settled in the land of Canaan and sojourned for a time to Egypt, even more years passed by.

Key Words
V. 1.  sākār = “reward”: The word usually translates as “wages.” However, at Isa. 40:10; 62:11; Jer. 31:16 it appears in connection with God’s gift of deliverance from exile in Babylon; striking is Ps. 127:3 in terms of “the fruit of the womb.”

V. 1.  māgēn = “shield”:  Common in Psalms, therefore a cultic term, usually in regard to protection;  part. Interesting are Ps. 84:11; 115:9-11; also Prov. 30:5 where the parallel is “every word of God proves true.” Above all, the psalm for the day confesses confidence in waiting for the Lord, for “he is our help and our shield” (Ps, 33:20).

V. 4.  ’ašer yētsē mimmē‘ekā = “who comes out of your loins”:  For mē‘â as male reproductive organ, see 2 Sam. 7:12; 16:11, etc.,  as female organ = womb, see Gen. 25:23; Isa. 49:1; Ps. 71:6; Ruth 1:11.

V. 6.  wehe’emîn baYHWH = “and he believed in the Lord”:  RSV and NRSV translate “believed the Lord”; see Exod. 14:31; Num. 14:11; 20:12, and often.

V. 6.  wayachšebehâ lô  tsedāqâ = “and he accounted it to him as righteousness”:  chāšab = “account, reckon” is used in cultic situations in which a priest examines and determines the acceptability of a worshiper’s offering (Lev. 7:18; 17:4; Num. 18:27); as a neg. form of our text cf. Ps. 32:2:  “Blessed is the one to whom the Lord does not account iniquity.”

For further commentary see Gerhard von Rad, Genesis, rev. ed., trans. John H. Marks (Philadelphia:  Westminster, 1972):  181-185;  Claus Westermann, Genesis 12-36, trans. John J. Scullion, S.J. (Minneapolis:  Augsburg, 1985):  217-223.


Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
God enables us to believe in him, as Abraham did, apart from the experiences of life, enabling us to redefine reality and pursue life’s journey in faith and trust.

The author ended the previous paragraph with the admonition to endure in faith in order to receive the promise of God.  Now he devotes all of chapter 11 to faith—its definition (Vss. 1-3) and examples of what faith has enabled people, including Abraham, to accomplish.

V. 1.  elpizomenōn hypostasis = “the reality of things hoped for”:  See 1:3 where hypostasis is the “nature” of God (parallel to his doxa = “glory”). At 3:14 “the beginning of hypostasis” refers to the reality of God on which the life of the community is based; at 11:1, therefore, hypostasis is the divine reality present in the faith of the community.  (See Koester, TDNT VIII:  584-88.)  For a different use of the term in Paul, see 2 Cor. 9:4; 11:17.

V. 1.  pragmatōn elegchos ou blepomenōn = “the proof of things one does not see”: The expression seems to mean that the heavenly world alone is reality. The definition of faith, however, recalls Jesus’ words at John 20:29.

V. 3. Pistei nooumen katērtisthai tous aiōnas rēmati thou theou = “By faith we understand that the world(s) was/were created/prepared by the word of God”: At 1:2 the author writes about God’s Son “through whom also he created (epoiēsen) the world(s) (tous aiōnos).” The understanding of God’s creating the world by the word begins, of course, in Genesis 1, but it also occurs at Psalm 33:6. See also Isa. 45:18-19. In the NT, John 1:3 attests to this same belief.

V. 12. kai tauta nenekrōmenou = “and him as good as dead”: The unflattering description of Abraham appears also at Romans 4:19 where Paul describes the patriarch’s faith. At Isaiah 51:2, the prophet calls his readers to remember their parents Abraham and Sarah, “for when he was but one, I called him,…”

V. 12. The quotation about the stars derives from Genesis 15:5, and the combination with the grains of sand has its origin in Genesis 22:17.

V. 13. kai homologēsantes hoti zenoi kai parepidēmoi eisin epi tēs gēs = “and having acknowledged that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth”: Abraham makes such an admission at Genesis 23:4 when he asked the Hittites for a piece of property to bury Sarah. The Apostle Paul alludes to a similar understanding when he describes the Christian’s “commonwealth” as “in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). See v. 16 in the present paragraph.


Luke 12:32-40
God is pleased to give the kingdom, the heavenly treasure, to those who are ready and wait in hope for the indeterminable day.

Still on his journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, Jesus addressed the thousands of multitudes who were stepping on one another in 12:1-21.  At v. 22 Jesus turns his attention specifically to his disciples, admonishing them to put material things in perspective and trust in the loving care of God.  That conversation continues here.

Two Themes
(1)  The gift of the kingdom enables believers to determine what the treasure is and how we get it (vv. 32-34).
(2)  Watchfulness and faithfulness mark the life journey of the believer who knows where the treasure is (vv. 35-40).
(a) Admonition to watchfulness during master’s absence.
(b) Parable about a householder on guard against a burglar.

Key Words
V. 32.  mē phobou = “do not fear”:  The words are common in OT when overwhelming odds seem to face the people of God (Exod. 14:13; Deut. 7:21; 20″1) or when God is present to make an announcement of importance (Gen. 15:1; Isa. 41:14; 43:1; 54:4).  Common also in Luke: 1:13; 2:10; 5:10; 8:50.

V. 32.  eudokēsen ho patēr hymōn = “your Father is pleased”:  See also Gal. 1:15-16; Col. 1:19 for God as the subject of eudokeo.

V. 32.  dounai hymin tēn basileian = “to give you the kingdom”:  Recall Dan. 7:13-14 where the “one like a son of man” (the saints of the Most High, i.e., the faithful martyrs) “was given” the kingdom by the Ancient of Days.

V. 33.  thēsauron … en tois ouranois = “a treasure in the heavens”:  Elsewhere, see Luke 12:21; 16:9; 18:22. Paul refers to the gospel itself as the “treasure” we have in earthen vessels.

V. 35.  hymōn hai osphues periezōsmenoi = “gird your loins”:  Common in OT:  Exod. 12:11; 1 Kings 18:46; 2 Kings 4:29; 9:1 for tucking up the robe and moving on quickly.

For further commentary see Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J. The Gospel According to Luke (X-XXIV).  The Anchor Bible.  (New York:  Doubleday, 1985):  977-989.