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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).

Wrestling with the Word, episode 22: Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B (May 24, 2009) May 13, 2009

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Seventh Sunday of Easter

The key words for this final Sunday of the Easter season are life, apostleship, and mission. The lessons describe God’s determination to spread the good news of eternal life that can be ours through Jesus’ resurrection. It was not enough to raise only Jesus from the dead. Neither was it sufficient that only Jesus’ immediate followers should follow him to his Father’s house where many rooms await (John 14:1-6). God’s invitation extended to the world, and so Jesus appointed and sent out apostles so that many others might hear God’s invitation. That sending is called mission—God’s mission to reach out to others with the promise of life.

Download or listen toWrestling with the Word, episode 22: Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B.

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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, such reactions appear in Psalms 49 and 73. This psalm promises blessing for those who delight in the torah of the Lord and meditate on the torah day and night. Standing at 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. 4) and will, therefore, “perish” (v. 6).

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Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
Although a trusted disciple has betrayed the Lord, God wills that another replace him and that God’s mission continue through twelve apostles.

Context
The author of Luke-Acts has just reported the ascension of Jesus from the mount called Olivet into heaven (1:6-11). Then he tells of the return of the disciples into the city of Jerusalem which lay across the narrow Kidron Valley. In the city, the disciples returned to the upper room where they had previously shared the Last Supper with the Lord (vv. 12-13b). The list of 120 believers includes the remaining eleven apostles, along with “the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (vv. 13b-14).

Key Words
Vv. 16. “The scripture had to be fulfilled”:  Unfortunately, the omission of verses 18-20, eliminates the scriptures to which reference is here made. Both are contained in verse 20. “Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it” is a quotation of the LXX version of Psalm 69:25. Psalm 69 is a lament that provided some of the background for the narrative about the crucifixion of Jesus (“for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink”); the psalmist laments the enemies who have put him in such turmoil, and the verse quoted (verse 25) is the curse uttered upon those enemies. Thus Peter cites the psalm to demonstrate that the events surrounding Judas’s death fulfill the Scripture. Likewise, the second quotation “His office let another take” derives from Psalm 109:8, a lament in which the sufferer wishes the worst on his enemy.

V. 22.  martyra tēs anastaseōs autou = “a witness of his resurrection”:  This criterion set forth by Luke would apply not only to the “Twelve minus One” but also to Cleopas and Anonymous (Luke 24:13-35) and, according to John 20:11-18, to Mary Magdalene. Eventually Paul would also qualify on the basis of the Lord’s appearance to him on the Damascus road (Acts 9; 1 Cor. 15::8-9), and indeed the author of Luke-Acts uses the word “apostle” of Paul (Acts 14:4, 14).

V. 25. labein ton topon tēs diakonias tautēs kai apostolēs = “to take the place in this ministry and apostleship”:  The author of Luke-Acts uses this word for “ministry” also at v. 17. At 6:4 the same word appears, along with prayer, as the responsibility of the twelve, of Barnabas and Saul at 12:25 and of Paul at 21:19. In a speech by Paul, the apostle uses the word of himself at 20:24 and often in his own writings (see Rom. 15:8; 1 Cor. 3:5; 2 Cor. 3:6; 6:4, etc.). Apart from apostles, Paul calls “ministers” those with governmental authority (Rom. 13:5); he also uses the word for Phoebe (Rom. 16:1) where the word is translated “deaconess.”

V. 26.  kai edōkan klērous autois = “and they cast lots for them”:  The election is not the result of a crap game because the action is preceded by their prayer to the Lord Jesus. It was Jesus who chose the first twelve apostles out of a larger group of disciples (Luke 6:12-16), and so the Risen Jesus selects Matthias as successor to Judas. The insistence on keeping the number at 12 is reminiscent of the numbering of the tribes of Israel.

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1 John 5:9-13
Having made credible the identity of the Son by bearing divine witness to him, God offers to all who believe in him the gift of eternal life.

Context
The verses bring the body of the letter close to an end, verse 13 actually introducing the conclusion and summary. That same verse actually identifies one of the reasons for writing the letter, and the reason here is almost identical to the purpose stated for the writing of the Gospel according to John (John 20:31).

Key Words
V. 10. ho mē pisteuōn tō theō pseustēn pepoiēken auton = “Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar”: Much earlier in the book, the author wrote that claiming we are without sin makes God a liar (1:10). The author uses the word differently in chapter 4. He uses the word “liar” for those who say they love God but hate their neighbor (4:20; see also 2:4).

V. 11. kai autē estin hē martyria = “And this is the testimony”: The testimony that God testified concerning his Son (v. 10) is that through his Son God gave us eternal life. The author wrote earlier that the apostolic testimony is that of eternal life with the Father now revealed to us (1:2) and that Jesus promised us eternal life (2:25). The concluding verse of our pericope announces that this gift of life is the reason the author has written the book. Other purposes of the author’s letter are the following: “that our joy may be complete” (1:4), “that you may not sin” (2:1), to give “an old commandment” (1:7), “because your sins are forgiven for his sake” (2:12), “about those who would deceive you” (2:26), “that you may know that you have eternal life” (5:13).

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John 17:6-19
Jesus prays for his disciples that though they do not belong to the world, he sends them into the world just as God sent him to fulfill God’s mission in the world.

Context
Continuing with his Last Discourse with his disciples that he began at 13:31 with the words “Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified,” Jesus has explained in a variety of images his own relationship with the Father and the relationship of the disciples with himself. He had spoken to them of the ways he would be with them and of the role of the Counselor to come. At the end of chapter 16, the disciples confessed their belief that Jesus had come from God, but Jesus prophesies that their belief will turn to desertion and that he will be alone with the Father. Jesus concludes that portion of the discourse by announcing that “in the world you have tribulations; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (16:33). Now in chapter 17 he began a prayer to which the disciples are allowed to listen, a privilege indeed because it is the intimate conversation between Father and Son. In the first five verses, Jesus has announced again that “the hour has come,” and that eternal life is a present reality for those who know God and himself.

Key Words
V. 9.  “I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.” The ambivalence in John’s Gospel about God’s relationship to the world is evident here:  contrast and compare, e.g., John 3:16 with 16:33 and here.

V. 14.  “not of the world”:  The expression is applied both to the disciples and to Jesus.  The identity of Christians and of Christ himself is not tied to the world that Christ has overcome, but to God. For such an alienation of Christians in the world, see also Philippians 3:20, 1 Peter 1:1, 17; 2:11.

V. 18.  “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent you into the world”:  The word “sent” reflects the word “mission” and continues that “sending/missioning” of God into the broken world which began with the call of Abraham in Gen. 12:1-3 and continued through Moses for the salvation of Israel (Exod. 3:10) and then through the prophets.

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Looking Ahead
The lessons for next Sunday, the Day of Pentecost:
Psalm 104;24-34, 35b
Acts 2: 1-21 or Ezekiel 37:1-14
Romans 8:22-27 or Acts 2:1-21
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15