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Wrestling with the Word, episode 79: Lectionary 13 (5 Pentecost), Year C (June 27, 2010) June 16, 2010

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Lectionary 13 (5 Pentecost)

While a general human tendency is to “look out for yourself,” the Bible focuses on the opposite: look out for others. The new direction is not simply an ethical issue. It actually derives from the nature of God. Throughout the Bible God demonstrates unconditional loyalty to people and to fulfilling promises. God’s unswerving commitment calls for faithful discipleship. Since serving God as disciples has no real form except loving one another, then our call is to “get out of ourselves” and focus on others. In doing so, we worship the Lord our God.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 79: Lectionary 13 (5 Pentecost), Year C.

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Psalm 16
The psalm expresses the commitment and trust of the worshiper to the Lord. The psalmist attributes to God the good fortune that has come because of trusting in the Lord to the exclusion of all others, because of confessing that the Lord is “my chosen portion and my cup” (v. 5), and because of heeding the Lord’s instruction. Those who choose other gods will not find favor with the Lord, but those who, like himself, choose only YHWH will experience blessing and joy.

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1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21
Against Elijah‘s attempt to seek refuge in the traditional “holy place,” God sent the prophet back into the realm of history to anoint kings to rule and a prophetic successor to bring God’s word.

Context
Elijah had won the contest against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and had the losers slain.  Jezebel, Ahab’s queen who worshipped Baal, threatened to kill Elijah.  The prophet took refuge on Mount Horeb.

Key Words
Vv. 15-16.  māšach = “anoint”:  The anointing of kings was common in biblical Israel; usually used of Davidic kings, although see Cyrus at Isa. 54:1.   Interestingly at the accession of Hazael there is no anointing mentioned (see 2 Kings 8:7-15), and Jehu was anointed not by Elijah or his successor Elisha but by one of Elisha’s disciples.

V. 19.  šenêm-‘āsār tsemādîm = “twelve yoke of oxen”:  A rather overwhelming herd to pull a wooden plow!  Heb. tsemed can also mean “a measurement of a field” and so could be translated “he was plowing twelve acres before him, and he was on the twelfth” (see 1 Sam. 14:14; Isa. 5:10).  Moreover, v. 21 seems to imply there was only one yoke (tsemed) of oxen.

V. 19.  ’addartô = “his mantle”:  See Zech. 13:4 for such a prophetic mantle; for the magical quality of Elijah’s mantle, see 2 Kings 2:8, 13, 14 where it plays a role similar to that of Moses’ hand (Exod. 14:21, 26).

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Galatians 5:1, 13-25
God calls people who live by the Spirit to share all things with one another — burdens, the word, goodness — for they are a new creation to whom the world has been crucified.

Context
In Chapter 5 Paul turns to the issue of freedom as the object of Christ’s gift through the gospel.  In the paragraph omitted from our pericope, verses 2-12, the apostle writes that by “adding” circumcision and other practices to the gospel, the people have severed themselves from Christ.

Key Words
V. 1.  tē eleutheria hēmas Christos ēleutherōsen = “for freedom Christ has set us free”:  The seemingly redundant expression emphasizes the nature of the gospel’s gift.  It calls to mind the image of the slave markets in the Graeco-Roman world, specifically the “sacred manumission” decrees. An inscription from 200-199 B.C. at a temple of Apollo at Delphi reads “The Pythian Apollo bought from Sosibus of Amphissa for freedom a female slave,…” (C.K. Barrett, The New Testament Background:  Selected Documents [London:  SPCK, 1958]:  52).

V. 14. “For the whole law is fulfilled on one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”: The connection with Jesus’ teaching on the great commandments in Matt. 22:35-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28 is obvious. Paul, however, eliminates the “first” great commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God …” Paul likewise settles on this one commandment at Rom. 13:9; see also James 2:8.

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Luke 9:51-62
Rebuking his disciples for desiring judgment on those who would not receive him and his destiny, Jesus calls people to unconditional discipleship within God’s reign.

Context
Following the Transfiguration, Jesus resumed his ministry of healing and teaching:  foretelling his death, settling the argument among the disciples about who was the greatest, and correcting the disciples when they forbade a non-disciple to cast out demons.  Our pericope begins a new section of Luke’s Gospel, one in which Jesus begins the journey toward Jerusalem and prepares his disciples for the tasks ahead.

Key Words
V. 51.  en tō symplērousthai tas hēmeras = “in the filling up of the days”:  The expression occurs also at Acts 2:1 to describe the arrival of Pentecost. The words here actually open a new section in Luke’s Gospel in which the “long” journey to Jerusalem will be filled with Jesus’ teachings and some miracle stories. It seems Luke uses this block of material as instruction for the missionary journey of the church in his own day.

V. 51.  tēs analēmpseōs autou = “of his being taken up”:  The verb form analambanein is used at Acts 1:2, 11, 22 for Jesus being taken up to heaven.  In OT traditions one thinks of the journey of Enoch (Gen. 5:24) and of Elijah (2 Kings 2:11; cf. also 1 Macc. 2:58; Sirach 48:9).

Vss. 51-52.  apesteilen angelous pro prosōpou autou … hōs hetoimasai autō = “he sent messengers before him … to prepare for him”:  The words are not identical but similar to Mal. 3:1 where the messenger is Elijah (Mal. 4:5 English).

V. 54.  “to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them”:  The words are a quotation from 2 Kings 1:10, 12 where Elijah demonstrates he is a “man of God” by using such means to destroy King Ahaziah’s soldiers.

V. 55.  epetimēsen autois = “he rebuked them”:  The word appears in a technical sense of bringing chaos under control, thus the object of Jesus’ rebuke are unclean spirits (Mark 1:25), Satan in the words of Peter (Mark 8:33), and the stormy sea (Mark 4:35-41). Here his own disciples are standing in the way of Jesus’ determination to fulfill his mission. Simultaneously, Jesus’ words indicate he breaks with the Elijah tradition of demonstrating power in order to pursue the way of the cross.

V. 62.  “put the hand to the plow”:  See 1 Kings 19:19-20 where the words describe the daily work of Elisha at the moment of his call by Elijah to succeed him in the prophetic office